When we first started Apex Digital Media in Sept. of 2014 SEO was pretty much our core competency. When prospective clients would ask us “What does SEO Cost?” – before even offering a quote I would usually prime them by sending a link to this article from Search Engine Watch. The reason being is that SEO is an extremely undervalued skill and a lot of people don’t realize it.
As a business your wisest move is to hire an agency or consultant to do SEO work for you. Some people will try to do it on their own and are capable – but think about the fact that time is money and if you’re running a business you probably don’t have time to sit down and spend several hours a day doing the intensive labor it takes to be successful. Some people will opt to hire a relative or current employee who “knows a lot about SEO,” and sometimes this can also work but rarely does it deliver the level of results you will get in finding and contracting a competent SEO agency.
If you look at this infographic from the Search Engine Watch article you can see that average hourly rates for SEO in the United States are over $100 per hour. You will also see that rates in less developed countries like India are about 50% of that on average with some hourly rates being as low as $20 / $25 per hour. These prices are a good indicator of quality and when you hire someone for SEO it’s probably good if English is their first language. Have you ever received a spam email from an Indian or Chinese spammer? I rest my case.
The above image shows average retainer rates across several countries, again you’ll notice that the lower rates are usually found in countries where English might not be their first language. I say this not to slag India but because we get countless requests from “outsourcing firms” to do cheap SEO work for us. Outsourcing SEO work to an international 3rd party almost never works out. If you’re interested you can view the full range of this data here. In the meantime, let’s discuss the different methods companies might want to charge you should you hire them to work for you doing SEO.
Digital agencies charge in a variety of different ways. If you’re in the market for a company to do SEO for you it’s good to understand payment structure so that you can work to find a company that meets your budgetary needs.
Finally, to quote Search Engine Watch: “As you begin shopping for SEO agencies and making your decision, be mindful of the following points”:
SEO takes time and you aren’t likely going to see results for at least 90 days. For this reason a package that gives you the best price over a long period of time is going to be the most effective for your needs. SEO is a long-term investment and the most enduring SEO results come from a long-term relationship. If you’re looking for instant sales or traffic you will want to spend on Pay Per Click which is a whole other ball of wax!
SEO is constantly changing and your rankings will fluctuate: New sites spring up every day, Google is constantly altering it’s algorithm to prevent cheating and provide for a better user experience. With all these and many other factors at play realize that nothing will ever be set in stone. It takes constant monitoring and effort to maintain great organic rankings.
If you’re in the market remember that SEO shouldn’t about shopping around for the lowest prices. It’s about finding the finest agency you can. Look for an SEO agency with good case studies that clearly defines its deliverables, and takes the time to educate you on what it’s doing and why. Unless people are able to find you online what’s the point of being there?
To learn more about how Apex Digital Media can help you with your SEO needs click here.
One of the most frequent questions business contacts will ask us is – “how much does a wordpress site cost?” – to be 100% honest there is no straight answer. WordPress is a Content Management System (CMS) that is extremely versatile. It can do just about everything but most importantly it allows people with zero knowledge of web design the ability to create content online.
Some businesses need to sell products – WordPress has a deep ecommerce integration through WooCommerce. Some websites need to be able to allow new users to create and manage their own accounts – WordPress has a built in solution for handling this, etc. etc. A typical WordPress site at it’s core, domain, hosting, software installation can be fairly cheap. Good domain, good host and you’re looking at $300 a year if you can install, set up and customize the site yourself. Those are just basic costs – but when you need custom apps, design adjustments, etc. that’s when the costs begin to increase. Building a wordpress site isn’t much different than coding a site by hand. The core elements are there for you to use and a designer / developer can take those elements and shape them to a customer’s needs – in much the same way the basic HTML or CSS elements are there for a coder to use. WordPress is simply another platform, or vessel for design.
One thing we find time and time again is that business owners will do as much as they can to get a website “on the cheap” – they will try to do it themselves in their spare time, have a grandkid or a cousin tinker with it… all the while having a subpar representation of their business visible to the world. These people will come to us and want to spend several thousand dollars a month on advertising to try and drive new business – but the advertising is sending people to a flawed website that will never result in actual business.
If you are a business owner, your website is a big investment! This is your first impression to most people who are looking for what you do online. Think about it on your own terms – if you want something you go to Google, type in “best fishing gear” and you’re going to see brands like Cabela’s and BassPro but you will also see mom and pop business in the mix with these muti-million dollar franchises. These smaller shops have one chance to gain your business and imagine if you clicked through to “Dave’s Fishing Shop” because they had a great price on some waders but their site looked like it was built in 1995… You’re going to be less likely to make a purchase there.
There is no right answer here, however there are some good price ranges to consider and anyone that is way above or below these should raise concern. Someone who is too cheap is likely going to do a subpar job and then you’re just going to have to pay someone else again to do it right. Someone who is too expensive is either overcharging, outsourcing for a profit or in some cases just good enough and in enough demand to charge higher rates than their counterparts.
For a company just looking for a basic, 100% mobile & tablet responsive, 10 to 15 page website with a typical templated design the average cost is going to be around $2,500-$3,500. The low end would probably not include things like hosting, domain costs, email addresses, ongoing support & updates, etc.
This would include all of the basics from the typical set up but then add in items like a custom-built contact form, newsletter registration, hosting and domain registration costs, 5 – 10 email addresses, etc. These more customized design packages will run a bit higher in the $3,500 – $5,000 range.
eCommrece for WordPress is a bit more development heavy and as a result more costly. While plugins such as WooCommerce are available to help you will most likely still need the aid of a developer to customize them to your liking and set up payment gateways, shopping carts, etc. Other features that you will want to consider here are support (in case something you can’t fix breaks), custom landing pages for advertising campaigns, feeds for 3rd party store fronts, and anything else that helps you drive sales or new business. So how much does an eCommerce WordPress Site Cost? You’re looking at a range somewhere between $5,000-$15,000 depending on your needs.
For more information about how Apex Digital Media can help you with your design needs, click here.
We do a lot of design for e-commerce driven businesses. One of the things we’ve run into a lot over the past couple years is people with unfinished Magento sites who need our help to get them functioning properly.
This can be a daunting task depending on several factors including which version of Magento they have and what type of hosting solution they are using. We did a lot of research into the costs associated with building and maintaining and found this article by the good folks at Shero Designs that covers the issue with great nuance. We borrowed a few of the key points from it for our blog and we encourage you to click over to their website and read the full version of the original post if you’re seriously considering a Magento site. (We also encourage you to read this thread and as many of the responses as you have time for.)
Let’s start with the basics. You need to strongly consider your hosting before anything. We recently took on a client who does pre-sale launches that produce incredibly high traffic spikes. Initially working with this customer there were issues with his server CPU maxing out. We were forced to move him to a more robust host and they are no longer having problems. If you are using Enterprise Edition you will need a dedicated server – however, we recommend it with Community Edition as well if you are planning on serving a large, international market.
If you are a site that’s doing 30 / 50,000 uniques or more per month it’s a good idea to get a dedicated server that is not cloud based. Most people completely negate the cost of hosting when looking to build a site of this nature but it’s an important one. You should be able to find a good dedicated server for $300 – $500 a month. If you are a small store without a budget like that you can work with shared hosting to start and find a hosting company that can grow with you. A lot of companies will have basic starter packages for $10 / $20 a month and as your site begins to grow you can expand to larger packages with ease.
Some questions to ask yourself when choosing a Magento hosting company are:
This is a basic website for a business starting from scratch or moving over from a different platform. This can be done by using a pre-built template which can be purchased or comes with a basic install of Magento. Another method is by converting an Adobe Photoshop design into a Magento store. Both of these options require a good deal of time to set up, configure, customize and test which is why even at a basic level Magento sites are not cheap.
Here are some of the basic features you can expect with a basic set-up of this nature.
This option is for bigger, established retailers who do most of their business online and are either moving from a different eCommerce platform or are upgrading their existing Magento websites. It provides a complete solution to online selling and with a business continuity plan in place for growth.
This option includes all the features from the Custom Magento website. Magento Enterprise Edition comes with the following additional features:
To find out more about how Apex Digital Media can help you with Magento Design and Development click here.
Back in Oct of 2014 we did a post about responsive web design for Google AdSense. The post was really popular but as all things internet related do, the details and process have evolved quite a bit since Oct 2014.
With that in mind I thought I’d publish a quick update as sort of a “heads up” to bloggers & publishers who may still be struggling with this issue. It’s actually very very simple now for Google AdSense. We will cover setting it up in DFP and other ad servers in a later post but we’ll keep this post nice and simple for Google AdSense.
It took me a while to grasp this but Google’s new “Responsive” format will fit ANY ad size – including the 728×90. I mistakenly thought the responsive ad size was simply a 300×250 that would scoot over on a mobile device screen…
I always opted for the 728×90 as my header ad, but in fact the responsive unit IS a fully responsive ad unit that when placed within a “div” tag will read the size of the space and serve ad formats that fit based on the user’s screen size. It’s pretty awesome. As an example, below are some shots of how the Apex blog looks on my desktop (Macbook Pro) and on my iphone.
Here’s the types of ads I’ll see on the desktop version of the site:
And here’s how that ad unit displays on the mobile version of the site:
Apex is a Los Angeles, CA based digital agency heavily involved in adwords ppc management. For this reason we learn a lot in real time, as we execute campaigns daily for clients. This is why part 7 in our series is going to discuss Google shopping feeds and Product Listing Ads. If you’ve ever searched for something very specific in Google you’ve probably seen them, they look like this:
We recently had a client (who will for contractual reasons remain unnamed) who had an unsuccessful PPC campaign after 30 days. It wasn’t completely our fault… and to be honest, it was a lot more successful than most AdWords campaigns are in their first month – despite the issues. All that aside, we also learned 2 very valuable lessons from the experience.
Never done this before? You’re in luck. The next section will explain in 3 easy steps how to get your product feed up and running, and converting sales for you or your clients.
Before we dive into this – if you still need help you can go directly to Google’s help page for this topic, which is much more extensive than this post: https://support.google.com/adwords/answer/3455481?hl=en
That is if you don’t have one yet. You will also need an AdWords account to associate this with – but we’re kind of assuming you already have that. For the merchant account go here: http://merchants.google.com Once you have this set up you will need to follow the instructions to associate it with your Google AdWords account.
The first thing to consider here is this – Google Shopping Policies. Make sure you read these policies and abide by them. If you’ve ever worked with Google you know that they value the user experience and seek to serve the most relevant search results to their users. So as you’re structuring your product feed – keep this in mind. DO NOT try to keyword spam or use shady tactics in your feed or you will be banned from Google Shopping altogether.
File Formats – The only file formats you’re going to be able to use are XML and .txt. If you’re a programmer who can code for an API you shouldn’t be reading this anyway! Google recommends using .txt if you have minimal technical expertise so keep that in mind.
Basic Product Information – There are tags for basic product information:
Availability & Price – This is to manage price and inventory information for your store. You can find advice on providing the most up-to-date or fresh data here.
Your feed will need to contain the REQUIRED attributes or it will not serve in Google. You can make sure you set up everything correctly using this reference here.
You’re in the home stretch. The toughest part of this is setting up and loading your product feed. Once you have that implemented and working correctly the rest is easy.
If you need additional help view the full Google walkthrough here.
To learn more about how Apex Digital Media can help your business with AdWords PPC Management Click Here.
In another sign that digital marketing has officially achieved mainstream status, advanced audience target is going to have a seat at 2015 TV Upfronts. Media vendors are promising advertisers cross-platform reach – mainly out of necessity as viewer attention is beginning to fragment across devices. Brands want to be sure that when they commit to an upfront buy there are going to be “multiple points of execution” as ad exchanger puts it.
According to AdAge & Forrester – Digital ad spending is going to overtake traditional television by the end of 2016 so this intermingling of digital and television in upfronts has been going on for a while now but is really starting to take hold as more and more people move from traditional television viewing to tablets and handheld mobile devices.
NBC is one network who has been ahead of the curve with this trend. Their launch of Hulu in 2004 has proven to be a very wise move in the wake of success stories like Netflix and Apple TV. They recently launched a tool called “Social Sync” that allows advertisers to integrate paid and organic social campaigns with TV distribution efforts. About 1/3 of client business NBC transacted at upfronts last year included TV & Digital Extensions. They expect an even bigger number of marketers to bring converged budgets to the table this year. A+E Networks is another major player leaning heavily into the digital space. One challenge it faces is justifying advertiser spend for newer formats like in-app video. On average the network says it has 50%-60% of traffic moving from traditional desktop into mobile and other non-desktop environments.
In addition to advertisers shifting more budget from television to digital media agencies are beginning to meld their digital video and TV buying groups. The dynamics between television networks and agencies during Upfront negotiations is also starting to produce some interesting dynamics.
One is the urgency factor, booking ad placements at upfronts is likened to booking a flight during the holidays. If you book ahead you’re guaranteed to get a lower price and the seat you want. Another is the differential in network ratings and the prices that advertisers are willing to pay for premium content. The advertiser will use a drop in TV ratings to argue for reduced CPM’s and sellers will counter with data and new channels, proprietary audience targeting, apps, and other new opportunities.
The push back from the agencies remains on the loss of audience. They feel justified in offering lower CPM’s to networks for a drop in ratings, while the networks will argue that the audiences have just moved over to mobile, video on demand and other methods of viewing their content. At the end of the day TV Networks have the premium video content that the biggest and highest spending brand advertisers want to be associated with. Brands are going to pay for the audience one way or another, regardless of what type of device they are viewing the content on.
The process of TV upfronts will continue to merge with digital in the coming years as technology, viewing habits and platforms continue to evolve.
So you’re probably asking yourself: “If this is the first post in your AdWords Management series; why I haven’t seen #’s 1 – 7?” The answer is not because I am a Tarantino-esque genius who created an intricate web of blog posts that starts at #8 and circles back to #1 for the climactic finish… It’s mainly because our first post in the series covers a topic that’s a little more of intermediate to advanced level practice for an effective AdWords campaign manager.
I could spend a lot of time gushing about how much I love Google, maybe even to the point that it would be considered virtual brown nosing – or “blog-nosing” to coin a term… (® Jan 26, 2015 – ie. “Please give me better rankings for “blog-nosing” Google!”), You have to respect the way that they strive to make a quality search engine that delivers the most relevant possible results to its users. This holds true not only from an organic SEO perspective but also from a paid advertising perspective.
Even in paid advertising Google’s methods reward not just the advertiser with the most money, who bids the highest but also the advertiser who takes time to create a worthwhile user experience. “Quality Score” is a real example of this practice. Even the smallest e-commerce shoe sales website can compete with a giant like Zappo’s for customers in AdWords as long as they keep their landing pages clean and their keywords relevant. In fact, Google rewards them with lower cost clicks for taking time to do things right.
To get to the point, AdWords is always evolving, and so AdWords management as a procedure has to evolve as well. One of the most recent evolutions in the AdWords is the “callouts” extension. Much like the “site links” extension it gives you the ability to add additional customization to your ad and thereby get a larger chunk of real estate, which will in turn increase your click through rates.
If Sitelinks are like the different departments of your business, Callouts are like the signs you would place in the window of your business. Things like “20% off all purchases over $100” or “Free Shipping with All Orders!” are the types of phrases you can use in a call out. It gives you an opportunity to better showcase the nature of your business and your offers to prospective customers – at a glance. As I hinted at earlier it also gives you a larger piece of real estate which usually results in a higher click through rate.
Yet another way that Google helps the little guy compete online and keeps the market fair for all.
Today the Apex team was enjoying Pizza at an undisclosed location in Agoura Hills. As we were waiting for them to heat up our slices we all began to flip through our phones for some temporary amusement. One of our brighter team members decided to check how we are currently ranking in organic search for our business name… “Apex Digital Media.”
We were shocked and surprised to notice a small but new demarcation on Google’s Mobile SERP next to our listing that read “Mobile-Friendly.” It was something we’d never seen before and a quick search produced the recent announcement that indeed… Google has updated mobile SERP’s to let users know whether or not a site is mobile friendly. Fear not webmasters, they have clearly defined the criteria for what will earn you this tag. It is as follows:
GOOGLE: This change will be rolling out globally over the next few weeks. A page is eligible for the “mobile-friendly” label if it meets the following criteria as detected by Googlebot:
- Avoids software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash
- Uses text that is readable without zooming
- Sizes content to the screen so users don’t have to scroll horizontally or zoom
- Places links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tapped
This also fits with Google’s core mission which is providing relevant results and a great user experience. They even created a test site to help you with mobile optimization.