Jordan Caron: Hey everyone, It’s Jordan Caron from Meaningful Marketing. I’m sitting down with one of our clients, Adam Sullivan, who’s a co-managing partner at Victoria Transmission & Auto Care. Adam, please say hi to everyone.
Adam Sullivan: Hello, everybody.
Jordan Caron: Adam, we’re going to get right into it here with a few questions about your partnership with Meaningful Marketing. A little bit of background about yourself and Victoria Transmission. How long ago did you take over the business?
Adam Sullivan: Peter and I purchased the business in 2010 from my dad, and he’d actually bought it from his dad. We’re a third-generation business now that’s been fixing cars in Victoria since 1964, so I think that’s puts us at 54 years in town. Peter and I both worked at the company for many, many years. Peter had been here 25 years before we bought it, and I’d been here 15. And, we got wind that the owners wanted to sell. We really liked the direction the company was going and decided to make it a career for both of us.
Jordan Caron: And, when you took over the business, they were just strictly doing transmission repair, correct?
Yeah. Probably all of 90% of the work that we did was just transmissions, clutches, driveline things. And, the general repair side of stuff, like the break jobs and oil changes. If a customer asked us to do that, we’d do it. But, it was not something that we ever advertised or put out to the city at all.
Jordan Caron: Okay. So, you guys decided to switch that and become like, an all-care auto repair shop, then?
Adam Sullivan: Well yeah, because the transmission industry had been declining. It peaked at around 1999, and then what started to happen was the manufacturers started to build better product that would last longer, and then they’d warranty it longer. And so, we were seeing a steady decline from transmission sales. So, you look down the road 10 years and think, well if we’re declining at 10% year over year, in 10 years we wouldn’t be left with almost anything. So, we had to make the decision to branch out, offer and advertise general repair just to stay alive, or the future looked really bleak.
Jordan Caron: Ok, that brings up an interesting question. Before, they were just doing transmission repair. And, when you guys took it over, you obviously are doing all types of auto care repair. What types of marketing and advertising methods were being used when you took over the business?
Adam Sullivan: Pretty old school stuff. Our biggest thing was the Yellow Pages. The Yellow Pages were king; we’d spend $50,000, $60,000 a year to be the category leader in transmissions, and even a two-page, full-color ad, it was a ridiculous amount of money. The previous ownership would do the odd, three-month radio ad. The Q, or local stations like that. We put the odd thing out in Times Colonist or in the black press. But, all old school kinds of marketing, and we were seeing a big drop-off on how effective it was being. The ROI coming from those forms of media – they couldn’t justify themselves, not even a little bit.
Jordan Caron: Ok, so then, fast-forward to a couple of years after you purchased the business. You partner up with ourselves here at Meaningful Marketing. What made you focus on Internet marketing?
Adam Sullivan: Well, Peter and I sat down and were looking at our advertising budget, which was about 6% to 7% of our revenue which, in our industry, is too high. We were finding that we were doing a great job of keeping existing customers and getting referrals, but as far as new customers, if they were coming in, we spent a few months analyzing, where did they come from? What made them choose us? And, what we were finding was, mostly word-of-mouth, which we already knew was good. And, almost none of it was coming from our massive advertising and marketing budget.
So, we sat down and thought, how do you decide which restaurant to go to? Because we both really like food. And he says, well I’ll go online and type in, if I’m in Seattle, Seattle’s best restaurants. Or, if I’m in Los Angeles and I want to go do something with my family, what’s the best family stuff that we can do in Los Angeles? You get a lot of information from that, and you get a lot of online reviews. What we found for ourselves personally is, we make most of our decisions based on – at first, a google search, and then reading reviews from other people that have been there and have done it.
And at that point, if someone has 20 or 30 reviews, some will be positive and some will be negative. But, at least you kind of get almost an insight of that business. And we thought, hey, for our business, if someone’s never been to us, and they have lots of decisions and options when it comes to getting your car repaired, there are a million auto shops out there. If we could have the Internet presence and get our reviews going, that’s what we used. That’s why we decided to really focus on the Internet-based marketing.
Jordan Caron: So, you’ve kind of answered this question. But, how important are customer reviews for an auto repair shop like yours?
Adam Sullivan: Honestly, we found that online customer reviews are probably the single biggest generator of new clients that we talk to. They’re able to find us organically through our web presence, or they’ll find us through some of our ads. But, we find that they make a final purchase decision based on the reviews that they’ve read about the company. That makes them feel that they can know us and they can trust us. I’m sure other industries vary a lot but really if you’re looking for a new mechanic in a town, reviews are going to be worth their weight in gold, and they have been. It automatically allows the customer to get an insight into your business that just your own website, because that will be biased most times – if they can read reviews, I think it just brings a lot more credibility to everything that we do.
Jordan Caron: So, as of this interview, you have 59 google reviews, which is great because the competitors in the marketplace only have about 15 or 20 max.
Adam Sullivan: If that, yeah.
Jordan Caron: Now, what are you guys doing to get more reviews?
Adam Sullivan: Well, that’s the toughest part. I’m sure we’ve all been there: we’ve been to a restaurant, or we’ve been to a business and we’ve had just great service, and we loved it. And, we’ve probably said the words, oh I’m going to write a review for you guys. Or, you’ve talked to a waiter and the waiter’s done an exceptional job, and you say, hey you know what? Thanks, I thought that was just incredible. And he’ll say, hey, can you write a review? Because this will help me when I’m talking to my boss about my next review. And at the time, you’ve maybe had a glass of wine and the dinner’s been great, and the lobster was perfect, or whatever it may be. And you say yeah, yeah. I’m going to do it.
But invariably, you never write that review. You go home, life gets in the way. You think, oh maybe I said that, but what difference will it make? We’re trying very, very hard to make it as easy as possible for our customers to review us online. We’ll ask questions like, do you have a Gmail account? And, if they say yes, well then great. You can just go to our site, sign in and make a review. It will take less than a minute. Or, if they say, well I don’t have a Gmail account; I don’t even know what you’re talking about, you say, hey, it’s getting an email address to start with Google, with Gmail. And then what we’re going to do is, we’re going to send you a follow-up, kind of how to get set up, how to create that Gmail if you don’t already have one, and really, make it as easy and as fast as possible for the customer to do it.
One thing that some other businesses in town in our industry do is, they pay for reviews. Or, they’ll give credit off or stuff like that. We’ve never done that, and I don’t think we ever want to do that. Morally, it just feels kind of wrong to pay people for reviews. So for us, it’s just doing a really, really good job. And then, the follow-up with the customer. Calling them a week later after they’ve been in and saying, hey, Mister Smith. We’ve worked on your car. How’s it still working? Were you happy with everything we did in the service? And they’ll say yeah. And then, you can kind of just remind them, we’d really like it if you could make that google review for us. We appreciate your business and we’d like to have you back. And at that point, at least it gives us a second chance to remind them about the Google reviews, and we’re finding that that’s what’s really started to increase the reviews that we’re getting.
Jordan Caron: Perfect. One thing that Adam hasn’t mentioned here; in the follow-up email, what we do is send out a link to this person that goes to our website, which has a page that discusses and shows step-by-step instructions on how to write the reviews. So it makes it really easy for the person, if they’ve never written one, to go to that page and learn how to. And then, we also have a link that helps them find out how to sign up for a Google account, which obviously makes it easier for them to write a review.
So, that’s all of our time. I want to thank Adam for sitting down with us here, and hopefully everybody out there listening has gotten some knowledge on how to get reviews, and how important reviews are for each of their businesses. So yeah, Thanks, Adam.
A header is the first person a user sees when they access your website. A well-created header lets your consumer know they have arrived at the right place, whether or not they are already a follower of your brand. It needs to be recognizable and easy to understand. This feature is a valuable piece of real estate that can help sell your rand if used wisely.
One form of header is known as the sticky header. It works just as it sounds – the header “sticks” to the top of a web browser as the user scrolls down the page. One of the primary motivators for this design choice can be navigation. On a site with a sticky header, the visitor can easily access another page on the website or basic information without having to scroll back up.
But just like any design decision – the user experience has to come first. And while in some cases, sticky headers can be an aid, they can also go to the other extreme and ultimately hinder the UX. Here are some tips to avoid disaster while using sticky headers:
Avoid Large Headers
While you want the header to catch the user’s eye and be easy to read, you want to avoid making the user experience claustrophobic. Since a sticky header is going to always be visible as the user reads your main content, if it is too large the visitor will be constantly scrolling. After a while this is going to feel tiring. You want the consumer to be able to quickly get the information they need about a brand to make a decision, not spend hours trying to get through all your content because a giant box leaves the reading space small.
We recently received an email from Social Media Ninjas about how our sticky header could be reduced in size. Here’s what it looked like before:
And here’s that same page with our slimmer sticky header:
We gained about 15% of extra screen space to help you see more content and less of our logo.
Make Use of the Space
Don’t leave your user wondering what to do next. If this header is going to be following them throughout the page, make sure there is a call to action that is relevant to your brand. Whether it is a donate, request info, or see more button, you want ot make it as easy on the user as possible to get to the next step. Simply including the name of your company and a brief description in your sticky header is not making the best use of the space.
Don’t Forget About Mobile
The desktop website experience is your anchor. But don’t forget about mobile users. The screen is going to be much smaller, and so ask yourself whether a sticky header is going to work in that format. Even if the answer is still yes, it has to look different in order to create a comfortable user experience. Don’t be afraid to have a different mobile layout, as long as the branding is consistent with your desktop site.
Don’t include every link
If you’re looking into sticky headers, you’ve probably heard how it can speed up browsing and navigation times. While this is true, copy and pasting every navigation link into your sticky header is going to be distracting and bloating for your user. Especially if you are a content heavy page such as perhaps a media outlet with a lot of categories, this is only going to overwhelm the user as they are constantly shown too many choices. Make sure to pick only the links the user really needs.
Picking Flashy Design Over Legibility
There are always going to be trends in the website world. It is worth keeping up with your competition and seeing what works and what doesn’t. However, sometimes websites choose flash over substance. Thin fonts and low contrast designs for example may seem appealing to the eye – but are they readable? A way to avoid UX mistakes such as these is to test your website on multiple browsers and devices to ensure usability.
In the right circumstances, a sticky header could work great for your website. It might help users navigate easier and understand your brand in a short amount of time. But before jumping into including one, make sure you follow these tips and always remember that user experience comes before design.
Nick Rojas is a serial entrepreneur who’s enjoyed success working with and consulting for startups. Using his journalism training, Nick writes for publications such as Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, and Yahoo. He concentrates on teaching small and medium-sized enterprises how best to manage their social media marketing and define their branding objectives. Nick is currently a consultant for Phonecheck.com.
For high-loaded websites, CDN or Content Delivery Network and dedicated servers are normally used. In this post, I’ll go through both servers and compare their advantages and disadvantages, their variations and a few tips on which one to choose between the two hosting options.
What Is A CDN?
CDN works by serving content to end-users with high performance and high accessibility. The networks of CDN serve most all web contents such as videos, text, and URLs.
How will CDN help with your website?
Through CDN service, there are a lot of internet nodes being designed to share web contents. So after browsing your website, it will then send data from the closest data centre to the users. In this manner, CDN helps in reducing the latency or failure that is due to networks, web server, etc. Various CDN’s utilize P2P technology in caching files to produce top performance.
CDN vs. Dedicated Server
Since CDN is already ideal, why should we need dedicated server? What are CDN’s weaknesses compared to the traditional dedicated server? Well, read on.
Rationally, CDN can guarantee 100% uptime because it is being served by numerous servers; but, it is also possible to have slowness due to the configuration of the network. Using dedicated server, the performance will depend on data centre network and server hardware configuration. Since there is a dedicated bandwidth allocation, there will not be too much latency present.
For many CDN service, security poses the biggest concern. Since it’s going to send data from your website to various locations or servers, it is difficult to have everything protected particularly when it pertains to sensitive information on the website.
Then again, a dedicated server is going to offer maximum security to any data since everything is being kept on one device. Provided that the single server is properly secured, data leaks are not possible.
Today, you can find a lot of CDN service providers on the market but, there is a huge difference in their service quality. A CDN can be built through 3 or 30 nodes. A good CDN service provider has data centres on various places such as Microsoft Azure, but it is not possible for many CDN service providers as they just have a few servers from various DCs and don’t have much access to the network material. A dedicated server is completely controlled by a team with complete access to different configurations, has control over resource allocation and security protection and updates.
If issues do happen, the CDN support will examine each node to get it fixed, and the process may take quite a while depending on the complicacy. A dedicated server is supported by the dedicated server service provider, given that the server is still up and they can access it. Means, unless it’s a MUST, they don’t have to bother your server provider for problem fixing.
When should you choose CDN or dedicated server?
Ideally, a good dedicated server is more costly compared to CDN services; particularly there are CDN providers such as MaxCDN which are only about $120 per year. On the comparison mentioned above, we have learned that a dedicated server is in fact much better than CDN when it comes to performance since it’s driven by the dedicated resource.
So it all comes down to how much you’re willing to spend. We’ve found for our clients websites and ours, the results in page speed improvements have been great despite having a shared hosting account with a CDN in place.
With various hosting types available, choosing the perfect fit for your website can be tough. Do you want a shared hosting, Dedicated Server, or a Virtual Private Server (VPS)? This article will tackle about the advantages and disadvantages of these hosting services so you can make an informed decision on which is best for you.
The Shared Account
Shared account is a basic web hosting account and used by millions of websites around the world. The shared account is perfect for sites with less traffic because they are inexpensive as compared to the VPS and Dedicated Server.
Here’s a scenario to enlighten you. Shared hosting account is like renting a room in a dormitory. You have your own private space; however, you share the facilities such as the bathroom, kitchen, and living room with the other tenants. With shared hosting, your private room is your home directory – nobody is allowed to invade your home directory other than you. That space is solely yours. But, you share major server resources like RAM (memory), software packages, CPU, and network connectivity with other websites.
Pros and Cons of a Shared Account
Very cheap – fee for a basic shared account is as low as $5.97 for every month
It is a great approach in starting an online presence
Fully-supported by Home-Cooked Support
Doesn’t require customer intervention when it comes to system problems
Very easily scaled across the three shared account hosting types
Same with renting a room in a dormitory with others, you are subject to each other’s doings in the server. Since you share the main resources, there may be times when two people will compete with the same resource all at once. Here’s another scenario – two people are using the toilet and you badly need to use it. Although there are automated scripts already in place to ensure that people are not hogging the virtual restroom, there are instances when two processes need the same resource simultaneously. From time to time, the second individual must wait for a moment – however, in computer terms, a “moment” is normally in a matter of microseconds, instead of hours.
Less capacity to modify. The same with landlords that implement rules, shared servers also have rules on what “tenants” are permitted and not permitted to do.
Outbound email is limited to 500 per hour
Root access is not permitted
Must have cPanel
Many individual starting with small online stores or blogs start with shared account.
The Virtual Private Server (VPS)
If you’re not sold out with shared hosting, then a VPS can be your next option. A VPS is somehow the same as shared account in a sense that few resources of the parent server are being shared by the child servers. However, before we delve into that. Here’s a scenario for this option: A VPS is the same as renting an apartment. Different from renting a room on a dormitory and sharing most of the facilities, renting an apartment provides an individual space with more freedom. You have your own bathroom, kitchen, and living room that are only for your usage. In a VPS setting, these are the RAM, disk space, and operating system. But, you still need to share a few resources with the rest of the building, which is the parent server, electricity and the water system, which is the network.
Pros and Cons of a VPS
Cheaper compared to a Dedicated Server
For sites that are becoming gradually popular, a VPS is the next step up
Customizable – the limitations of a shared account are nearly gone
Having a managed or core-managed VPS’s can let Home-Cooked Support take care of the management
You will have more resources – you will have your very own operating system, RAM (memory) and in selected cases, your own CPU
Outgoing email is not limited to 500 per hour
Scalable – can easily increase or decrease system resources when required with less downtime
Root access is permitted
More costly compared to a shared account
There are a few resources being shared with other customers on the server, so there are struggles with memory or server load.
The Dedicated Server
A Dedicated server is a physical server with hardware that you can use exclusively. Here’s a scenario: A Dedicated Server is similar to owning a house. From small cabins to the most elegant houses, it is really good to have something that is yours. Your hardware has no other customer, and nobody is competing for your resources too. It is exclusive to you. Your server is located in a datacenter, same as with your neighbourhood. If a fuse is blown from 3 houses away, it will not affect; but if the transformer of your neighborhood is blown then your house will be affected – if something occurs in your datacenter, which affects the network connectivity (a rare occurrence) everybody is affected. However, for problems that are specific to the server, your server is not affected by the things happening around you.
Pros and Cons of the Dedicated Server
A Dedicated Server is a physical server that is exclusive to you
Root access is allowed
No outbound email limitations
Vast resources for high-traffic sites
Overall control over every aspect of your server
Capacity to add more RAM, bigger disks or RAIDs
Fully supported by Home-Cooked Support (with managed or core-managed Dedicated servers)
More expensive compared to shared or VPS accounts
Regardless of the type of hosting service you opt for, your site will be located on a server. If visitors visit your page, the CPU and Memory of the server will work collectively to provide the visitors with the pages they want. Sometimes, there are instances that your website may utilize excessive CPU or Memory to serve a lot of pages, and that will be the perfect timing to improve and upgrade your account.
Upgrading from Shared to VPS Hosting
For many users a shared account is perfect. You have the capability to host an array of applications like Joomla or WordPress, and there are many email accounts to work with. When you compare Shared Hosting to living in an apartment, cases where an upgrade is necessary includes:
A Growing Family: When your family is growing, and your apartment can’t handle it, then it’s a perfect time to move. For instance, you may have need of an extra bedroom or bathroom for your children. Moving into a condo can provide you with that extra space. In Shared Hosting, if your site is fast becoming popular, you may have to upgrade to VPS Hosting so your account will have more CPU and Memory. This will let you handle all of the new incoming traffic on your website.
Customizations: If you like green and want your walls to be painted green, you may not be able to paint your walls with your favourite color if you’re in an apartment. Moving to a condo provides you with more ownership of your space, which lets you paint and decorate your space with whatever you like. If you need a software that’s not found in Shared Hosting, then upgrading to VPS hosting will have the power to install any software that you desire.
Upgrading from VPS Hosting to Dedicated Hosting
Continuing with the condo analogy, you are given a lot of control; however, you do not have total control. If you are to invite a crew to play in your home, others within the community will hear the ruckus and may complain. If your relative or friend moves with you, you may not be able to add another room to accommodate them. There are a lot of good reasons that living in a condo was great for you during a certain stage in your life; however, your family is growing. You may think of purchasing a family house where there is a lot of parking space, extra bedrooms, and a huge lawn for you to play with your pet.
For mid-sized businesses, VPS Servers are perfect. You will have a virtualized private server where you can create and tweak what you need. You may able to host a limitless number of sizes, and there are no limitations aside from the usage of the CPU and memory of your server. The server of a VPS isn’t a dedicated server, so that means that you’re still on a server with another user. Since you are sharing a server, other users can still be affected by your actions. If your website is busy, controlling most of the CPU time and memory of the server may cause performance problems for other users of the server. And if you’re using an unoptimized script and is running out of control, it will mess up your site and the whole server. This may cause downtime for other users of the same server.
Which to choose?
With the things mentioned above, you now know the various advantages and disadvantages of different type of hosting. We hope that through this article, you have grasped their distinctions. It is up to you to choose what type depending on your needs. If you intend to create a big blogging platform that lets hundreds of people visiting each month, you may have to consider dedicated hosting or cloud hosting because of the needs that you will face. These servers will be faster and help load your website as quickly as possible.
But, if you are starting with something small, why pay for a lot for what you don’t need? Go for shared hosting or VPS hosting and save a small amount of money.
Lately I’ve been getting a few emails and phone calls from current and past clients saying they disappeared from the Google maps search rankings.
These calls and emails came in last week. Being that I was on holidays I brushed it off as a glitch as I’ve seen this happen before. A clients listing disappears from the maps results for a few days but then they pop back up again a week later.
But when I got back to work a couple of days ago, I noticed their listings were still not showing up. So I did some searching in my local SEO communities. What I found was this thread from the Local Search Forum. In the very first post Broland describes a friend of his whose listing doesn’t show up if you click on the “more places” link to see more mapped search results. He played around with zooming in once and zooming back out and noticed his friends listing showed up again.
I tried this for a couple of clients and this worked. They weren’t listed there originally after clicking on “more places”. After zooming in and out again, they were there. Really odd right?
Some further reading in that thread points to a theory by Joy Hawkins that if two businesses are listed in the same building, one will be filtered out before doing the zoom in and zoom out. After thinking about the two clients I researched, they were indeed listed in a building with a few competitors who offer the same service.
I’m still trying to figure this out but can’t come out with a solution. Joy updated the thread a couple of days ago saying three attorneys in the same building were all in the top 3 but only for a couple of search terms.
Now I really wish I could help solve the reason why your Google My Business listing disappeared from the maps. But I can’t for now so follow the Local Search Forum thread for updates.
At the end of this, many believe Google is A/B testing some results. They’ve been known to do this in the past and let’s hope this is the case this time.