Author

Adam Lamagna

My primary focus in my career is to help companies, organizations, and individuals find the balance between design, technology, and business.

My primary focus in my personal life...is to just find a balance!

Link Building

November 23, 2014
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I’d like to touch on link building today. This will tie into my previous posts on SEO, and content strategy. Link building is perhaps one of the hardest things to get right in the game of SEO. It’s complex and very complicated. But you can start by getting the internal linking right!

Internal Link Building

This is totally in your control. You have the power to make sure your internal link building is done properly. Once a spider gets to your page through a link, you’ll want to make it easy to navigate, intuitive, and earned. What do I mean by that? Well, your navigation should be pretty straight forward. You should have a navigation that makes sense. Don’t put the product page as a sub menu to your about page – it wouldn’t make much sense. When putting links in the body of your text, make sure that your not just linking for the sake of linking. Make sure that there is some type of value there. If you noticed at the beginning of this post, I linked to two of my previous posts, but they are in relation to this post. So, it makes sense to link. Make sure you think “earned” link when linking internally. Internal linking is important to SEO, but external linking is more important!

External Link Building

This is much harder to get right, because this depends on other people. When you are starting an external link building campaign, you’ll want to cast a wide net. Take a look at your personal and professional networks and think about how you’ll be able to leverage them in your link building campaign. Talk to your friends and family who have websites. Talk to your employees who have blogs and ask them to link back to your site when there is an editorially earned chance to take a link. Again, do not link for the sake of linking! Search Engines have become hip to this style of link building.

Lesson Time

The linking system comes from the 1950s. It is based on academic papers and their citations. Which ever paper was cited the most and from which resources (and how trustworthy these resources are) would determine which academic paper held the most weight. This is how link building works now. If you have a site that has a number of backlinks (links pointing to it from other sites), then most likely these sites will rank high, BUT it also depends on the trust of the sites that are doing the linking. So, if you have a site with 5 links coming in from other sources, but those sources rank low on domain authority, then that site might not rank as high as another site with only two links pointing to it, but from highly reputable sources – are you getting the picture? I hope so, sometimes I can ramble!!

We want links, but from reputable sources. So, where do we begin?? Well, we can begin with web directories – remember these things? Web directories have been around for a very long time in web years. Back in the mid 1990s when the web had about 600 websites, web directories were used to link to sites categorized by certain industries and the like. Web directories were/are basically yellow pages for websites. The picture here to the left is of DMOZ – this is a very reputable web directory that you can get published in and have a link going back to your site. I know it might sound a little ridiculous, but web directories are a great place to find websites related to your service or product or industry. So, even though it’s old school, do it! Every little bit helps to create a stronger web presence!

Social Media links – are they worth it? Well most social media links use what’s called a rel=”nofollow” – this tells the search engine not to use this link as an SEO link, that it is not to be followed for that. But social media is probably the best places to create buzz around your site and about your site! So, definitely post things on social media, it might not help directly with SEO, but it will definitely help indirectly with SEO.

You may also want to look into creating press releases. There are services out there that will help with this, just make sure to read the fine print. Some services that put out your press releases may not allow you to put in links until you’ve done a number of press releases or have paid a certain amount of money, so beware of that. Article syndication is worth doing if you create a lot of great articles. There are services that will slightly change the post so that there isn’t a bunch of duplicate content out there. And also look into working with bloggers. If you have a moving company, look into any moving blogs or moving sites that can compliment your site.

All in all, it’s a lot of leg work to do an external linking campaign, but if done properly, it can yield some wonderful results. I’ll touch base on paid links when I write my post on Adwords and Adsense! Coming soon!

 

Work/Life Balance

November 8, 2014
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As I sit here on a Saturday morning totally neglecting my life/fun/relationships/and other commitments, it makes sense to quickly talk about work/life balance, of which I have none of!!

Life

Ok, so this is pretty straightforward, right? You should only be working 40 hours (yeah, right) a week, or so that’s what the American government says is fair. Which, I do work 40 hours a week, I just also tack on about another 20 or so hours for events, and meetups, traveling from office to office. I enjoy it, but others in my life tell me it’s always going to be like that unless you find a balance. So, I’m trying to find a balance. And how do I do that? I go back to why I first got into this tech game, to code. I’m starting to learn the command line once again! I haven’t had much time to continue to code ever since my job took ahold of me. But what I’ve learned over the last few years is that I like being in front of my computer. I have a number of digital properties that need my attention and require that I spend some time on it. My idea of adventure (nowadays) is learning, that’s my exploration!

Work

This is where it gets tricky. You want to perform, you want to make things happen for the company you work for, but where do you draw the line between what you do for them and what you do for yourself? I think this answer is pretty simple. When you’re on the clock, you’re on the clock. That time is what you’re getting paid for and for 40 hours a week, it belongs to your company. The other time spent working is not only for your company, but also for you. Network with other companies, get a sense of what’s out there and how you could fit into the landscape as a whole. Think about your career and not your job. Don’t think about that next promotion or title you could get, think about what makes you really happy and healthy in a work environment. Is it running around all over the place and talking with people to try and sell them your company or is it sitting behind a computer and conquering the world of programming languages. What do you want to do??

You

This is where you should focus your time. Do things that further and better your own life. Because in all honesty, life is about you, your life. Not anyone else’s. Not your family’s, not your company’s – yours, and yours alone! At the end of the day, at the end of your life, you’ll look back and thank yourself for following the path you wanted to. Not what someone else wanted you to follow. Be bold, be brave, be you!

Laying the tracks for search engines

November 7, 2014
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Imagine you’re a librarian in the world’s largest library.

Your only job is to take the material (books, magazines, encyclopedias, etc.) coming into the library and index all of it. Only you’re not indexing alphabetically, or chronologically. You’re indexing according to topics, keywords, and queries. Your patron comes in and asks you to get the most relevant material to his query. Let’s say he asks – “I’d like everything you have on ants” – so you start thinking and analyzing everything you’ve indexed on ants. What would be the most relevant, you’d want to give your patron something that’s highly relevant, that way he’ll keep coming back. You’ll want to find more than one piece of material so your patron has a selection to choose from. Give him options. And this is pretty much what a search engine does, only they do it very quickly.

Search engines crawl web pages, sometimes they’re called spiders, ewww!

They do this through links, links are the easiest way to get from page to page, so it’s important to do internal and external link building. Good, relevant internal link building will help your SEO. So will editorially-earned link building (I’ll talk about this in one of my next posts).

Algorithms like Panda and Penguin, (what’s the new one – Pigeon or something like that?) have made things really easy for the user to find what they’re looking for. So while you’re doing you’re content, you have to think about your codebase and all non-text content.

Codebase – use semantic markup. In the new HTML5 specs, you can use tags that are specifically designed to let a search engine know this is what type on content it is – <aside>, <article>, <navbar>, <sidebar>, etc. Make sure you use the alt attribute for images – this is W3C compliant. But when it comes to the actual page, we’re not only going to have text. We want things like rich media – images, videos, pdf’s. So, you’re going to want to have descriptive text for all these elements on your page. Transcribe your videos. Put a description block underneath an image. Write descriptions for carousels and sliders. Search engines or machines read pages much differently than humans. Get the help of a coder and put your metatag descriptions in there (they don’t really help with SEO anymore, but they’re best practice and will help with your click-through-rate), have them help you with putting in an XML sitemap (this will tell the machine what’s on the page), and put a Robots.txt file in your file structure, so things like your login page aren’t indexed.

There is so much to consider when laying the tracks for search engines, but it has to be done. Now search engines can rank for intent, which I find fascinating. I saw Rand Fishkin (one of the great SEO experts ) at the last INBOUND, he opened my eyes to something. If you put in a search engine query – “I want to know the movie where the guy’s called the dude” – the search engine will come back with The Big Lebowski  (great movie!!) and that amazes me. These algorithms are getting so good, that they know our intent. I don’t know if I’m impressed or totally freaked out!! The bottom line is we have to keep up with the ever changing ecosystem we call the web!

 

Stay tuned for my next post about local SEO.

The Dreaded Presentation

November 6, 2014
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I’ve asked myself many times – how should I present that next big proposal? It’s a tough question to answer, isn’t it? I guess a lot of it depends on who you are presenting to. But I also think that presentations can be dry and long-winded, and just plain boring.

I’ve done my fair share of presentations from college to career and I think there’s one universal truth to keep in mind when giving presentations – be YOU!!! It’s so easy to say hey, let’s just repurpose that last presentation and spin it so it’s not exactly the same. Just copy another Google presentation and change some of the text on the slides so that it’s tailored (a little more) to this presentation we’re giving. But it’s still generic!

I’m a firm believer in telling stories. Why, you ask? Because stories stick, that’s right, they stick! People hold on to stories, they relate to stories. Stories are how we’ve been handed down life lessons from generation to generation. There’s this great book called Weekend Language, and it’s all about doing away with power points (because we all know they’re totally awesome, not!) and working on your narrative.

Bullet points, a lot of bullet points kinda suck. Would you want to sit there and listen to someone just regurgitating the bullet points on a slide? Probably not! I also understand that they’re necessary, sometimes people want to see that information and we can’t always tell stories. So, my advice is to find that happy-medium. Maybe start off with a story or anecdote, then move into some data points or statistics about whatever you’re trying to get across. There’s many different ways to approach a possible presentation. Preface it by saying, “hey guys, we don’t want this to be boring for you, but there’s some slides in here we have to go through. We’ll try and make it as painless as possible.” That way you’ve built a rapport, you’ve kept it open, and just let them know to interrupt at any time to clarify something, or ask a question.

Sales Presentation

Processes like these are the best way to ensure you make a good presentation and the people sitting on the other end are receptive. Best of luck, I actually have a presentation in about 2 hours. I got my narrative, but my slides could be better, lol! Hey, if you get a chance, check out Prezi, it’s a cool way to present things, but it also has to be done in the correct way. There’s a lot of animation in Prezi, so sometimes people can feel like they get a little sea sick. But check out these really cool Prezi presentations, hope you enjoy, and explore!

Content Strategy

November 4, 2014
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Content is King!!!!!

For those of you who read my last post about keyword strategy, then this is a continuation of SEO strategy. Onto phase 2, which is…. content strategy! Content strategy really has two portions to it.

Text Content Strategy

which is all about your text, (I’ll cover in this post) and….

Non-Text Content Strategy

which is all about your non-text elements (e.g. – images, videos). I’m going to segment this out into different posts because there’s quite a bit here.

First, you need to know how search engines rank your websites. There are these things called domain authority and page authority, and technically no one really knows what these things are. But Google makes the algorithms that index and rank your site dependent upon things like domain authority and page authority, and a plethora of other gauges. So, there are two things you need to optimize for when thinking about your strategy. The first is optimize for people, the second is optimize for the machine! (He’s a machine – in my best Ivan Drago voice!!).

This post will be about optimizing for humans and I’ll go into optimizing for machines in another post. Optimizing for humans is where you, as a business, product, or service, can break away from the pack. You can shine! Text has to be placed smartly, wisely, and you can’t over do it. Over doing something, like putting your keyword search term a bunch of times in the text, will make you appear as a spamdexing site to search engines, which will lower your domain authority very quickly – hard to recover from.

You have your keyword strategy, you know what terms you want to rank for, so now how do we put them into your post? Into your pages? Start at the top, what do you want your title to say? Or your headline? Think of it in terms of a print magazine or a newspaper. If you want to rank for “backpacking in California” – then you’ll want that in the title, something like “Great places to backpack in Southern California.” You’ll also want to put that phrase in the body of your text anywhere from 1 to 3 times, but really no more than 3, otherwise search engines may think you’re spamdexing, or Black-Hat SEOing. Which we definitely don’t want.

You’ll also want to use like-terms, words like tent, trail, sleeping bag, firepit, anything you can think of that might be relevant or in close relation to your keyword phrase. After that, it really comes down to great, and I mean great content. Content that’ll make people want to come back. Content that’ll make people want to comment on it or remark on it. Content that people will share with their friends. Good, great content. Be relevant, and be unique!! Stay tuned for more!!

NEWDcamp

November 3, 2014
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Yeah, it sounds kinda provocative, right? NEWDcamp, pronounced nude camp, it actually has a double meaning and none of them are inappropriate. New England Drupal Camp and the New Drupal Camp. It was a great turnout for the first ever NEWDcamp!

Even though I stood behind a booth for the majority of the event, I still met a lot of great people and managed to see Jeff Robbins keynote talk. It was right up my ally because he incorporated his life as a rock star into the speech.

Jeff Robbins was the front man for a band called Orbit in the 90s, when all those grunge bands were around. Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, etc. There was Orbit too, and maybe they didn’t get the fame that Pearl Jam got/has, but they were in the game!

Jeff talked about keeping things fresh and challenging yourself. Instead of going after every client out there, pick the ones that are right for your company. Qualify them a little more. I did get the chance to ask Jeff a question about qualifying potential leads. Is there a criteria for what Jeff calls the N-B-C (No Bad Clients)?

He had a great answer – NATM, Name, Authority, Timeline, and Money. Is this a client that can go on your portfolio or is it a client that just wants you to do some design that they already mocked up. What is their role in the company that’s looking for an agency? Are they a stakeholder and have significant pull or authority to make decisions? What’s the timeline? Is it something that needs to be done within two weeks, do they have a strict deadline? And how much money do they have? This is the tricky part, not too many people want to give me their budgets, but I need to know a range because it will dictate what I propose for you.

So, thanks Jeff, great answer! I really enjoyed being a part of the first ever NEWDcamp. It was a blast and hopefully next year I can go to more sessions.

Beginning your SEO strategy

October 29, 2014
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I get this question a lot:

How do you improve your SEO??

And it’s a hard question to answer because….as we all know….SEO changes all the time, all the time! You’ve got to keep up with it in order to improve it, and even that doesn’t guarantee anything. In all seriousness, most companies – if they hire an expert SEO specialist, it will take about a year to see any real improvements. It’s a long game, but…..

It all starts with a strategy

And most people will tell you it begins with a keyword strategy. I’m going to kind of go over that and only that. For those of you who are familiar with this – you can stop reading now.

Ok, so keyword strategy can be pretty straightforward. You want to rank for specific keywords, but those keywords obviously have to be relevant to your product, service, or company. The first thing you do is brainstorm. Put yourself in the shoes of your customer or visitor, think like they think, type like they type. What services do you provide? Try to figure out what keyword phrases you think best represent your company.

Then phase 2 – Research – this is a very important step to this process. Researching is key to having a successful keyword campaign. Use online tools like the Google Keyword Planner in Adwords, you can view what people are searching and narrow it down by location and industry. This is the best tool to find other similar keyword phrases that may be easier to rank for. While hundreds of thousands of people search for the term “iphone cases” not nearly as many people search for “cool iphone cases.” So use this tool and take the time to come up with 10 or 15 like terms. You can also check out keywordtool.io, this will give you similar phrases that may yield better results.

The next phase is organization. You have to realized that there are 3 things that go into really successful keyword campaigns. Relevance is one of them, Volume is another, and Competition is the third. Make sure your keyword terms are relevant to your company, service, or product. Make sure the volume on that term is somewhat low, otherwise it’ll be hard to rank for it. And check out how much competition you have, locally, regionally, globally.

If you can base your strategy around these simple steps, you’ll be headed in the right direction.

How much does a website cost?

October 10, 2014
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After being in the tech space for almost two years, I’ve learned quite a bit when it comes to the pricing of web projects. So…how much does a website cost?

A website costs time, it costs value, it costs behavior, and it costs relationships.

A websites’s cost is dependent on the time is takes, the value it brings, the behavior it causes, and the relationships it has.

Cost all depends…

Many agencies have hourly rates. Our blended rate is $150 per hour, we take our top strategists, our designers, and our developers and average out a blended rate. This is based on time. How long do we think the website will take to build? How many man hours? How many months? Websites can cost time, but they can also cost value.

How much value will building this website bring to your organization if we do right? How much value will you lose if we don’t do it? Value can be really hard to measure, but it’s something that you as a business development associate can help showcase by having your agency come up with an awesome and innovative web solution.

Behavior is another interesting thing to look at. What will the website do? How many features does it have? How much functionality do you need? Someone once told me about the Bermuda Triangle of pricing web projects: Quality, Functionality, and their relation to Cost. Most companies that have a small budget can choose either quality or functionality, but you can choose both.

And finally relationships. Will this be a good and easy relationship? Are they going to be a problem client? Will they listen to my advice?

The reality is, that websites can range from $1,000 to $1 million, it all depends on what you want! I read this incredible article, it’s a bit a the long side, but well worth the read. It’s all about agency costs and why we hate estimating. For anyone who’s been in my shoes, it’s really tough when someone asks you to give them a number, “well, just give me a number” – no, that’s a bad idea

Why? Because in order for me to give you an accurate number, I need to know more about what you’re trying to do. The solution is there, but it usually takes uncovering. I need to know things like business objectives, any creative objectives, what’s your timeline, what’s your budget. People have a tough time telling me that last one – budget. But I need to tell you why it’s so important. Budget dictates a lot of the solution finding process. It tells me that if you only have $15k to work with, then we probably can’t do any custom design for you, but we could take a pre-made template off the shelf and configure for you to be your own.

It’s a hard web to weave, and budget is crucial. If you don’t want to tell me your actually budget because of competition and the like, then I still need a range. Are you working with 10k or 100k. And beyond that I need to know what’s your timeline look like? Do you have a realistic timeframe? I ask a lot of questions, but this helps me get the answers I need to make a great proposal for you on your next project.

And just to let you know, not everything for a website takes 15 minutes. I love that one – “hey, I need you to put some forms on this site, that should only take a few minutes, right?” – WRONG! Working with working software is tricky, and can be daunting. So, keep in mind that it’s a process, anything you want to do (with the exception of writing a post, that’s relatively straightforward) will take time and therefore, money.

Check out this incredible article that I was talking about, it’s really amazing, but make sure you’ve got some time because it’s long!

How much does a custom WordPress site cost?

Have any website ideas, or are thinking about putting together that next blog? Let me know.

 

Agile Methodology

October 7, 2014
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The agile approach is called many different names – scrum, sprints, agile. They all have similar concepts and they all work differently for each individual team. While building any type of software, whether it’s a website, phone app, or some type of cloud based CRM, the agile approach is the best way to go. Why, you ask? I’ll tell you, but first….

For those of you who don’t know, there are essentially two different approaches to web projects – waterfall and agile. Waterfall is your traditional approach to a project. An RFP is given to an agency. That agency wins the RFP by writing a killer proposal or one that’s priced according to the client’s budget. And the project begins, usually with a kick off meeting discussing important core features and business objectives. A discovery then occurs where developers come in and get a feel for the client’s information architecture (content types, categories, etc.) and database structure (fields, fieldsets, etc.). The designs are started and shown to the client, either with a yay or nay. And then the build takes place. The critical part to remember is that the design comes before the build in this approach. That means that you have to build according to the design and not the other way around.

This approach can be tedious – relentlessly. What happens if that design you made doesn’t fit right over the build you’re architecting? What happens if that little tiny icon over that image breaks the navbar? What happens if newsletter signup gets cut off on a tablet or mobile device? What happens if, what happens if? These are the questions you’ll find while taking a traditional approach. So, what we do is change that approach to be agile. It’s a cool word, right?

Agile is the evolution of collaboration and iteration unveiling the right solution. And you do this by prototyping the build first. There are some great core values that the agile approach preaches and you can find them written in the agile manifesto. You do all the normal things you would do in an engagement like a kick off meeting and a discovery phase where you learn about the company, objectives, structure and architecture. But when it comes time to get down to the nitty gritty, you prototype and then you iterate. And you start the design while you’re prototyping. What does this give you? It gives you a working, clickable, browsable, some-what designless website – what we call a gray site. But then you keep iterating and things start to take shape. It’s a process that lets you build a site that works properly and doesn’t lock you in to a final technical spec.

And trust me, the design will look good, great in fact! But it needs to sit on top of a fully functional website. What will make a visitor leave your site quicker? Not having that cool icon sitting over the image the way you wanted it to or having a website that loads slow and doesn’t function properly across all platforms? Yeah, I thought you’d say that!! So, if you run a team of developers and are thinking about going agile, I strongly recommend it.

Pocket Dial Emergencies

October 6, 2014
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This amazes me and scares me at the same time. I recently read an article about people pocket-dialing 911.

PhoneCell

Does this really happen? I’m sure it does, but the extent at which it happens is phenomenal, seriously! Data has shown for certain call centers across the nation that out of 100 calls, 40 are pocket-dials. I mean, come on people! This is 911!! Ya know, the number people call when they’re dying or in trouble, or when their cat runs up a tree and can’t get down.

Truly, this whole scenario is bad. What if someone tries to dial 911 but can’t get in because 40 different people are accidentally pocket dialing the emergency line. And what happens when the call comes in late, the medics get dispatched a few seconds late, they get to the hospital a few seconds late and bam, the patient dies because you decided you’d keep your phone unlocked when you put it in your pocket. Seriously, I’ve never pocket dialed anyone, but that’s just me.

I wonder if authorities call these infamous butt-dialers back up and say “hey, try not to pocket dial us anymore, your clogging up the lines.”