Category : Small Biz Blog

DIY SEO For 2017

Google has us all by the balls. For the small business owner, especially local brick and mortar retail, trying to get your business information visible and appearing on Google search is now seeming to be more and more challenging. Many have caught on to the fact that the interwebs aren’t going anywhere and the internet is changing the way we do business and how people shop. To ignore your digital space as a business is a death sentence to your bottom line. You’re on Facebook, you have an Instathingy, you know you need to be on Google. So what do you do? You might be able to bake cakes, but your no techie or SEO guru. Never fear! We are here to provide a few must have tips to DIY your SEO for 2017. This is not a comprehensive guide, but a simple overview. Advanced SEO geeks should click your back button now. If you’re a newbie, stick around…


  1. Google is rewarding mobile first. 
    Google is now treating mobile search as all search. Therefore, if your website is not mobile friendly or lacks the load time or features necessary to load and be used properly on a smart phone, your rankings on Google will be buried. Look at the measure of mobile search over the past year versus desktop search:
    Action point: Make sure your website is mobile friendly. If your site is already mobile friendly, but not mobile optimized, make sure to do an audit to see if your site loads on all forms of smart phones and tablets. Contact your current webmaster or hire a web designer to redesign your site to add the features necessary. 
  2. Voice search and audio is going to be the next frontier.
    Google now wants to break into the home market. You’ve probably seen the advertisements for Google home, voice activated speaker. This totally makes sense since, speaking something is naturally more easier than having to type or write something. Search is moving more towards voice. This only serves to provide Google’s users with even better search results and besides, you don’t have to be attached to a desktop or device to receive an answer.Action point: Mark up your content using rich snippets and structured data. Using structured data allows Google to display your results where users can directly interact with your content right from the search results. Here is an example: 

  3. Basic fundamentals of SEO are a must 
    If you’re still wondering what a title tag is or your website still doesn’t feature any kind of blog you need to get ahead of the game or get left behind. A blog featuring relevant, valuable content to your target customers is a search magnet for prospective customers on Google. Not everyone is a writer, so you may have to hire a copywriter to develop some deep, keyword rich content to post on your website. This content also serves as social juice to share on social media platforms. Don’t stuff keywords though! Make the content real, relevant and providing real solutions for people that are looking for the products or services you provide. Some of Severity Design blog posts are the main traffic generator for our website. Take those visitors, offer them something of value and capture their information so you can begin developing a relationship with them. Action point: Start blogging! Set aside some time to do the research to find out what your customers are searching for, what questions they have and provide the answers on your blog. Bang out 10-12 articles that you can post on your website. Get a few employees involved, or heck even your kids! They have tons of time! 


Hopefully this will get you started enough to realize that one of these 3 things are lacking on your website. SEO is not completely dead, but the game has surely changed and continues to do so since Google is in control of the online marketplace. We need to stay up on trends, Google updates and make changes necessary. If your product or service is something that highly depends on website traffic, you might want to consider hiring an SEO company like Severity Design to give you an SEO audit to see where there might be room for improvement. 

Winners of Our Facebook Business Page Makeover Contest

Severity Design would like to congratulate two special local businesses that have won our Facebook business page makeover challenge. (a $97 value) Those two businesses are Hospitalitea, a local tea shop located in the State St. Market in Elgin, Illinois and Luxe Urbanista Planning and Events, located in West Dundee, Illinois.  These two wonderful small businesses will receive:

• A Facebook cover redesign
• Resized images as needed
• A fully branded Facebook profile creation
• Posting sourced content for up to 4 times per day for a week! 
• 1 Free consultation 

Many businesses neglect the power of social media marketing for their businesses, which is exactly why YOUR business should be there to take advantage while the others sleep. Though people aren’t looking to buy on social media, they are looking to connect, build relationships and be entertained. People buy from people they like, so why not be there when they are ready to do business with you?

5 Secrets To Effective Email Marketing

Many businesses have an email list they aren’t tapping into. This is unfortunate because typically this list is made up of previous customers or people who are specifically interested in the product or service you provide. Those of us in marketing are familiar with the phrase “The gold is in the list!”. Failing to market and engage this current list of customers on a regular basis is ultimately neglecting your audience. No one likes to walk into a bar or restaurant, sit down, wait to place an order only to wait forever to get table service. This is the equivalent of ghosting on your list. Email is a great way to provide regular, engaging content to your customers that will keep you top of mind when they ultimately get ready to buy. Here are a few key insights into how to begin with managing and utilizing email to keep your prospects engaged:


  1. The Cost Of Email Marketing Is Relatively Low
    There are several free email management services out there that you can use. Within a few minutes, you can set up your account, upload your email list and schedule your first email blast to your list. We recommend a service like Mailchimp that offers a free service up to 2,000 subscribers. The downside of managing your email is that you’ll have to invest a considerable amount of time creating and managing the list.

  2. Your Email Must Be Enticing, Engaging and Interesting
    In order for your customers to open your email and actually engage with what you’re doing your content must be enticing, engaging and interesting. Need help discovering what to write about? Take a look at trending topics on Facebook and Google. Does anything happening in the world relate to your industry? Write an opinion or perspective on what’s happening. Secondly, don’t just write about it, make it interesting. Use the techniques of humor and sarcasm to write your article or newsletter. Post interesting or funny pictures that your users would think is funny or interesting. Give them a reason to spend the minute’s worth reading.

  3. Subject Line, Subject Line
    Choosing the right subject line will actually get your email opened. Personalized subject lines are 22.2% more likely to be opened. [Source:Adestra] In our personal tests, when you place someone’s first name in the subject line, its more likely to be opened. There is no sense putting time and energy into your emails when they will just be sent to spam or not even be opened. Avoid spammy subject lines like “free”, “!!!!” or emojis. Also, attachments like pictures or documents that are not embedded into the email will most likely just get flagged buy spam. 
  4. Give, Give, Jab
    This is probably the most common mistake business owners make when it comes to marketing their business. They just blast their features and benefits without really engaging their customers. Posting, blasting your list with “buy now” is a sure way to get ignored, possibly even unsubscribed. We advise you to give, give and then ask. You want to promote content that is actually helpful and useful to your customers before you ask them to do something. When you apply the golden rule of giving, it will be given back to you. Give promotions, discounts and then ask your customers to do something. Don’t just nag your customers to buy. 
  5. Test Your Email
    Make sure your email is viewable on cell phones and tablets. Mailchimp and other services provide an easy way for you to send out a test email to see how it looks and is viewed by your customers. Many services offer out of the box mobile friendly templates that can easily be used. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve sent out an email without testing, only to see spelling errors and broken links in my email. 

    If you have an email list and are not using it, I would highly suggest you consider either cleaning up your list yourself or hiring someone to help you manage and execute your email campaigns. Even sending out a once per month email newsletter is a valuable tool to retain and engage your current clients and customers. People who have experienced your service or bought from you in the past will be most likely to buy from you again. If you’re not utilizing the “gold” in this list, then what are you waiting for? 

5 Mistakes When Using Facebook Ads

There is no question about it. Facebook, with its 1.4 billion users, offers businesses a huge marketing opportunity to reach people where they currently are, online. Will Facebook fade out like Myspace? I’m not sure, but what we do know is that for every 3 hours spent on our mobile devices, Facebook tells us that 1 out of every 5 mins is spent on the social media platform. Why spend hundreds of dollars with a EDDM provider to blanket a neighborhood, when you can spend the same if not less, to reach more people with more relevant, targeted outcomes? 

Facebook’s ad platform has become pretty robust as months go by. As a revenue provider for Facebook, this is sure to be an area of consistent updates, support and investment for the company. As someone who wants to advertise to Facebook users, it is going to take a bit of a learning curve to figure out the right tools, metrics and techniques to effectively use the Facebook ads platform. Here are a few tips a beginner user needs to know before you spend too much time and money marketing the wrong way:

1. Have clear goals
Before you spend money marketing anything, you must have some clear objectives in place to know how effective your campaign is working for you. With Facebook, you can have a few different types of goals to measure how effective your campaign is working. These include, page likes, sign ups for your newsletter, downloads, clicks to website and more. For more advanced users, Facebook allows your configure your e-commerce shopping cart to allow users to even shop online. These are all clear, actionable objectives that you must have in mind before you begin your campaign. 

example: My goals is to obtain 100 new Facebook likes per month.

2. Your using the wrong ad format
Facebook has 5 different ad formats for you to choose from. Each different ad format will gain different results for your ad. Often time, new users only will choose one ad format type because they don’t necessarily know how, or they may just have a “go to” format and never have stopped to really analyze if the type of ad they are running needs to be tweeked or not. Study the ads closely and choose the one that is appropriate to meet your ad objectives with the audience you’re targeting.

3. Keep’em separated
There is a difference between an ‘ad group’ and ‘ad set’. On the ‘ad group’ level, you can set your daily or lifetime budget, schedule, bid type, bid info, and targeting data. What you want is multiple ‘ad sets’ within your ‘ad group’. For example, let’s say you sell travel vacations. Your ‘ad group’ might be labeled “inclusive travel vacations”. Within your ‘ad group’, you might have several ‘ad sets’. One could be “Mexico vacations”, one could be “French vacations” and another could be “Hawaii vacations”. Facebook will give more reach to only one of the ad sets in your group. Therefore, make sure you have enough of them in your ad group and diversify as needed.

4. Your target is to broad 
I get it, you think your product or service is for everyone! (insert pet peeve here). When I ask people about who their target audience is, 99% of the time people say: everyone! Wrong. If you are a beer company, 13 year old Charlie is probably not within your target market. None the less, you’ll continue to waste money showing your ad to people who likely aren’t interested or are not relevant buyers. When you make your target too broad, you run the risk of wasting ad spend on irrelevant viewers. 

5. Get to the point
You’re ad isn’t there to sell the product or service, its there to sell the click through. You only have a few seconds to really draw in the user with short ad copy and a visually appealing image that will catch their attention. What do you want them to do from there? Don’t go into benefits and features here. Grab their attention and sell them on clicking through for more details. Don’t lie, don’t use click bait and switch tactics, use honest, thoughtful copy and imagery. 

Facebook ads can be a powerful tool to reach hundreds if not thousands of relevant users. It can also help new businesses and brands create awareness and build a following. The key is learning how to do it right, avoiding the pitfalls mentioned in this article and measuring outcomes. 

5 Practical Facebook Management Tips

It can be difficult as a small business owner trying to navigate through the social media maze. Does social media really impact sales? The average Facebook user has 176 friends in their network. This is a powerful insight when taking into consideration that Facebook exists today as the modern word of mouth advertising. We’ve provided you with some practical tips you can take when managing your Facebook business page.

Take advantage of Facebook recommendations.
In October Facebook rolled out a new posting feature that enables a “call out” on your post when it detects you are seeking recommendations or advice. If you turn on this feature, when you call out for recommendations, Facebook displays a prominent feature. With each recommendation posted, Facebook allows the poster to directly link to that specific business. Facebook also is adding a new message prompt, making it easier for prospects to message that businesses Facebook page. Facebook is the modern day version of word-of-mouth advertising. Getting a fan to make a trusted recommendation to their network of friends is golden in terms of gaining visibility with their network of people on Facebook.

Take advantage of longer posting options.
In contrast to Twitter’s 140 character limit, Facebook allows users to post up to 63,206 characters. This is a book. Not that anyone would read your post if it was that long, and I haven’t tested this myself, but what it does do is lend itself the opportunity to engage more with your followers. A longer post will take up more screen real estate which is vital to be seen in todays busy social landscape. Post lists, bullet points, stats and resources. Whatever you do, just make sure it’s relevant, valuable content and not annoying.

Dig into the data.
Who your Facebook followers are will determine what kind of content you should be posting. It can me a huge mistake to assume your audience on Facebook is within the 40+ age range only to find out the average age of your follower is between 25-30. Your articles about sending your kids off to college are not relevant.

Watch your competition’s pages.
Facebook business page allows you to watch up to 5 of your competitions Facebook pages. It’s smart for you to watch these pages that you want to emulate and see what they are doing. How many times do they post per day? Which posts get the most interactions? You can even view the top posts that got the most engagement from their following. Listen, no one is trying to re-invent the wheel here. Unless your product is a ground breaking invention, they are probably doing something similar to you. Don’t rip them off completely, but post similar posts to get the engagement and shares you’re looking for.

Post multiple times per day.
Facebook has an algorithm that puts posts from friends and family first. For businesses, this means that your organic posts will be seen less. This is good for the user experience, but not so good for businesses that seek to engage with followers on Facebook. Posting multiple times per day (4x) will definitely help you out. One page I follow posts 4 times per day at the same time every day. Once in the early morning, once mid afternoon, once in the early evening and once at 9pm at night. They seem to get lots of traction from this type of posting schedule.

In negative sense, if someone has a bad experience with your business they will typically take to social media and warn all their friends. In a positive sense, if someone has a great experience with your product or service they will take to social media and blast it all over telling their whole network of friends!

So you have a website, but it’s not doing exactly what you want it to do. You’ve spent all this money to get up and running, but does it perform?

Download this FREE educational whitepaper that explains 5 of the most important things your website needs in order to be successful.


How To Best Market My Service

So you have a great service and wanting to get the word out to the public about how you can help them? You’ve spent hours of planning, developing trusted systems that you feel work. You’ve hired the right technicians that you feel can provide the best service to your clients. All that is great, but now you just need business! This is where marketing comes in.

At first glance marketing and advertising look like the same thing, but there is a difference. Consider marketing as your comprehensive strategy in taking your product to market. Marketing is knowing your customers, and understanding what they want from a service like yours. Advertising is the process of making your service known within the marketplace. Marketing is the why and advertising is the how.

So how do you best market your service? I’d like to introduce you to the S.W.O.T template model to base your marketing strategy off of. Many of you may already be familiar with this model, but its always helpful to revisit and revise your SWOT strategy because your business grows and markets change. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Every business needs to understand their strengths, know their weaknesses and evaluate opportunities and threats.

Strengths include what advantages does your business have? What do you do better than any other business in the area? Knowing this will give you the language and upper hand when it comes to selling your services to others. If you are one of 5 plumbers on the block, what makes your service stand out both externally and internally?

Ask yourself what could you improve? What are the people in your market likely to see as weaknesses about your services? Thought this may be a hard piece to admit, we need to be realistic in being aware of what your weaknesses as a service are. Many businesses only want to admit how awesome they are and that they absolutely are the best. Come to find out, with a little thought, they have some serious loop holes needing to be filled in their service.

What are interesting trends that you are aware of? Can you spot any changes in government policies that might affect your market? Are there local events that you can capitalize on to offer your services? Use your strengths to take advantage an open up these opportunities to tap into your market and snatch up new business.

Many people overlook what their competition is doing, but its a key factor in positioning yourself for success. If your competition are charging more than you are, you might be missing out on expanding your budget by increasing prices. Look at what your competitors are doing, not to be like them, but to put yourself in the same playing field.

Using the SWOT analysis is only as good as you apply it to your business. Make sure you’re only using verifiable statements. You should be closely paying attention to your dollars and sense anyway! Keep things in perspective and prioritize what you and do and what you can’t do at the moment.

Maybe in the process you discover that you need help with marketing and advertising your service? Maybe your competition is getting ahead of you with a better, more attractive web presence that is attracting all your potential customers? If you need assistance, we would be happy to help! Just fill out the contact form below and someone from our staff will be in touch to discuss your needs!

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What SEO Can Provide for My Business?

Professional-SEO-ServicesSEO Services for My Website

Now that you have that website up and running, now what? Should you upgrade with video, social media or SEO (Search Engine Optimization)? Well, the fact that you even have a website up and running is half the battle and you’re already ahead of the game of 50% of small businesses out there that either don’t have a working website, or don’t believe they need one. Unfortunately, just having a website isn’t enough. You can compare your website to a billboard sign on the information highway. The only issue is that your billboard is stuck out in a cornfield somewhere in the country and isn’t being seen by users zooming past the interwebs.

In your personal experience, how often do you click past the first page of Google search results when looking for something? I might click to page 2, but certainly not much further than that. Towards the bottom of page 2 and 3 the search results start becoming less and less relevant for my search.

According to an article by, only 8.5% of all web traffic makes it past the first page. That means that 91.5% of all search users click on results on the first page of Google.

This statistic points out the importance of not just having a website out in the middle of a corn-field, but making sure your website is optomized as best as possible to be placed in front of search users on the information highway. Here are the three things SEO can do to boost your business from a online marketing standpoint:

  1. Ranking.
    Ranking refers to the position your website pages are returning when a prospect searches Google for your particular goods and services. Ranking doesn’t count for typing in your business name directly in Google Search. Unless someone is already familiar with your business and looking for you directly, they will use relevant keywords instead. Ranking will dictate whether your are on 1st page or 50th page. SEO is used to improve your ranking.
  2. Traffic
    Increased rankings will result in increased traffic to your website. Many times, businesses don’t even know what their traffic results look like on a daily, or monthly basis because they have no analytics set up to measure these results. Traffic should be something that is monitored so you can make data driven decisions where to optimize your website and what might not be working so well. If there are dips in website traffic for unexplained reasons, you are going to want to know about it because each of those visits can be potential prospects.
  3. Conversions
    Increased traffic will naturally result in increased conversions. This is of course assuming that the visitors coming to your site are actually looking for the products or services you provide. Irrelevant visitors are not going to contact you to do business. A conversion can count as many things. It can be a phone call, a contact form completion, a download or even a video view. These are actions that you definitely want to track when you have people coming to your website. SEO is all about return on your investment. For every dollar you spend, you want to know how many contacts you are getting from the cost of acquisition from that customer.Not everyone is convinced SEO is the best option for their marketing, but if you are a growing business that has a website, why not make that website work for you? It certainly isn’t working as it should by sitting out in the “marketing cornfield” hoping that someone will find you and contact you to do business. We have affordable SEO programs that will help increase your ranking, traffic and conversions over a 6 month period of time. Contact us today to discuss your project!

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Help, My Web Designer is Not Responding

Have you ever been in a situation where your website is in trouble and the person or company that built your website is no where to be found? Unfortunately, this seems to be an all too common scenario for lots of small businesses. Not a month goes by where I don’t hear these “nightmare stories” about crashed or broken websites where the designer is MIA. There are a few reasons why things like this occur, but these are the most common reasons why this happens and a few humble suggestions on what to do when it does.

They Went Out Of Business

In most cases, your website designer is not responding because they are out of business. This is especially the case when you built your website over 5 years ago and it was done by a freelancer or a small start up business. In these situations, the freelancer has probably moved on to find full time employment because of financial reasons, or has even moved out of your local area. If it was a small web design shop that set up your website, it’s probably they might have gone out of business or have begun focusing their time and efforts on more lucrative areas of interest.

They Are Too Busy

Another reason why your website designer might not be responding is that they are too busy. Often times smaller web design companies get busy and simply cannot take on any more projects. Their design schedule might be to full capacity. In this case, your web designer should offer you the courtesy of responding either by email or phone call. It’s unfortunate these days when a web design firm becomes lazy or lack luster in their customer service once they’ve completed a project with a client. Good business is always about good relationships.

We’ve Got Answers!

Solution: When the web designer is gone or out of business, there isn’t much you can do except find a new web design company to work with. Before you bring them on, validate how long they have been in business. This could be a sign that they are sustainable and will be around when you need them.

Another suggestion would be to sign up for a monthly maintenance plan if the web design company offers it. This can help them become more dedicated to you as a permanent client and be there when you need them. Web design maintenance can include content updates, page additions, ad creation and security updates. This is essential when you consider the amount of money you’ve spent on creating your website. You want to make sure your website isn’t hacked or crashes because you weren’t able to update or maintain the site.

Severity Design offers monthly maintenance packages that won’t break your budget. This is a valuable service we provide for both current and non-design clients. We will keep your site updated and secure so that you can sleep at night knowing that a powerful asset, your website, is fresh and working for you to help sell your products and services. If you’re interested in finding out more information, please contact us to schedule a consultation phone call to discuss your needs.

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What Exactly Is A CMS?

CMS stands for “content management system”. At Severity Design, we are strictly a WordPress website development company. That means we use WordPress as our primary content management system to build and set up websites. For those that don’t understand the history of WordPress, it started as a blogging platform in 2003. Today, WordPress is used to build full scale business websites with some of the largest fortune 500 companies utilizing its capabilities. Companies like Sony, Forbes, CNN and GM use WordPress. We use WordPress because of its powerful interface, trusted plugin repository and the fact that it is user friendly.

Open Source
We get questions all the time “Can I add or make changes to my website once the website is built?” WordPress is also “open source” which means that it is built using free software that anyone is free to use, copy and change in any way. This allows users to be able to customize the functionality of the website according to business needs. It also allows us to enhance future versions of the website in the case there is a need for updates and changes. In short, WordPress allows us to build on to it if needed. This is another benefit to utilizing a CMS like WordPress.

User Friendly
Another reason we use WordPress as a content management system is because it is user friendly for our clients. Using WordPress allows users to make updates, edit copy and switch out pictures themselves. Severity Design offers a monthly maintenance package for most of our clients that don’t have the time nor want to maintain their websites. However, should the client have someone in house that can manage the website, we will provide a crash course showing them how to make minor edits and changes. WordPress allows them to do this fairly easily without much knowledge of code.

According to an article in Techtimes, WordPress powers approximately 58% of all websites that are using a CMS system. This means that 1 out of 4 websites are using this popular CMS. Other CMS systems out there like Drupal account for only 4.9% and Joomla only 6.1%. These are factors we need to take into consideration when thinking about support issues, version updates and an capitalizing on an existing robust user community that WordPress provides. All things considered, WordPress seems to stand alone as one of the great tools for building websites.

Hopefully, this has explained a bit about what a CMS is and why we use WordPress as our CMS of choice. If there are any questions you have about what we can do to help or if you happen to be reading this and need an update to your website, please don’t hesitate to contact us!

5 Valuable Insights To Marketing in 2016

Ladies and gentleman, the way business is marketed is changing. If you haven’t gotten the news flash, the digital world is increasingly becoming the space where people live. This is means significant changes for small businesses and the way they get the word out to those in the marketplace. Granted, business fundamentals don’t vary that much, but the culture and business methodology has. In order to continue to stay afloat in this maze of marketing, advertising and branding, we have to stay up on trends and make the shift necessary to keep momentum going. Here are a few insights we see going into 2016 that small businesses need to be aware of when it comes to marketing:

  1. Big Data
    Gone are the days of wondering if your marketing strategy was effective or not. Or perhaps doing what most of us do…guess. With digital marketing, we are now able to measure clicks, views and conversions all via a complete marketing dashboard. As a business we can capitalize on this data to strategically target our market even closer and 86 campaigns that didn’t work. The release of user data allows us to take the question out of ROI for marketing.
  2. Mobile Websites and App Development
    According to Google, mobile searches are now overtaking desktop searches. (SearchEngineLand) This obviously means that users are spending more time on their smart phones when searching for products and services. I know this to be true from personal experience, although I am still quite tied to my laptop for work purposes. I doubt that machine computer use will go away, especially when it comes to usage that requires bigger monitors or keyboards, but searching the web for information doesn’t require these things and people are using smart phones and apps for more and more consumption. This means your business should look at investing in making sure your website is mobile friendly and providing content to be distributed via mobile.
  3. Video Marketing
    I’ve camped out on Twitters live broadcasting app Periscope for the past 6 months. Periscope is a app for Twitter that allows you to broadcast live to an audience, primarily via Twitter. Though its in its rough stage, Periscope and other video broadcasting applications are creating a new digital environment for marketers. With more and more users on Youtube watching hours of programming, its key for businesses to understand how to capitalize on this visual version of search. “How to” videos, documentaries and engaging video will increase relationships with your clients and tell your brand story.
  4. Relationship MarketingDigital marketing will take the place of selling in the years to come. With customers becoming more and more info savvy when it comes to buying, the face to face sales person is transformed more into a customer service rep to make the transaction. No one wants to be sold, but people do want and, in some cases, need to buy. Creating customer engagement that will help spread word of mouth advertisement and create brand loyalty is the way to go. Doing this as a business will set the bar high with competitors who aren’t making meaningful connections.
  5. Social Media as a Channel, Not A Strategy
    Marketers need to understand that as important as it is to be present on social media, it’s not marketing. Social media is a channel, just tv is a channel and print is a channel. What you DO on social media is what makes the difference. By now I think it’s proven that social media by itself flounders when its the sole source of marketing.
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