Alternatives to Homepage Carousel Sliders (Say No to Sliders)

I could spend an entire post describing all the ways sliders are bad for SEO, conversion, page speed and usability.  The reasons why you should avoid homepage sliders have been been the subject of multiple case studies over the years.  If you’re using or considering the use of a content slider on your website, you’re hopefully asking:

What alternatives are there for homepage sliders?

Often, slider’s are used as a way to cheat on the valuable upper-fold of the homepage.  The theory is that if you can fit one marketing message in the most visible area of your homepage, why not ten?

The issue there is on multiple fronts:

  • First, user’s don’t want multiple marketing messages, they want the right content.  Marketing departments want multiple marketing messages on the homepage which leads to the second issue.
  • Second, “Carousels are effective at being able to tell people in Marketing/Senior Management that their latest idea is now on the Home Page” – Lee Duddel

How then do you serve the right content to your audience while satisfying marketing fears that you won’t be showing the right message?

A static hero image with multiple CTAs within

If your issue is that you have more than one main call to action, a simple approach is simply offering them both alongside a striking visual. uses one such tactic well:


Hero image with a main tagline and two calls to actions. (Screenshot of

A hero background with CTAs split in three areas

Unbounce goes a similar route but splits their messages & calls to actions between the header, the main hero image and directly below it:


Hero background image with a tagline and singular call to action along with a secondary one below it and another in the header. (Screenshot of

A singular CTA and quick form

If there’s a real strategic reason for multiple main CTAs on the homepage, then the above are great alternatives.  However, in most cases, having multiple CTAs is typically a symptom of a marketing department not having faith in a singular CTA.

Lyft puts it’s eggs in a singular basket on their homepage, knowing that users will typically already be using their app while potential drivers are more likely to visit their website.


Main focus is a simplified form and call to action. (Screenshot of

What slider alternatives have you used?

The above are great examples of slider alternatives but maybe you’ve found something not listed above? Let us know in the comments!

Using Dimensions in AdWords to Optimize Campaigns

Google AdWords needn’t be difficult to manage and you don’t need expensive tools like WordStream nor Marin if you’re a small company or have a small budget under $2,000 per month. AdWords offers several amazing tools out of the box that are simple to use and provide great optimization benefits. Below are a few easy dimensions AdWords provides that can help you spend your money more efficiently.

adwords dimensions

AdWords Dimension: Hour of Day

Since you set AdWords budgets by day often times clients run out of money before the day is done. Now, AdWords does have the option of spreading your budget more evenly throughout the timeframe you select but even then it is possible to miss out on qualified visitors. By seeing what times of day searchers not only click on your ads but also go through and convert you are able to adjust your budget for a more optimized timeframe. For instance, on one client’s account we found that PPC conversions only happened over the span of nine to three. So we adjusted the budgets and our Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) sank dramatically as a result!

AdWords Dimension: Day of Week

Similar to Hour of Day the Day of Week dimension allows you to target your spend even more effectively. Knowing the exact days that searchers click and convert more allows you to target those days only or perhaps spend less on those days. This helps further reduce your CPA and optimizes your overall monthly spend.

AdWords Dimension: Geographic

If you are a nationwide brand it is often tempting to target the entire United States with your PPC campaigns. However different geographies convert better than others. The Geographic dimension allows you to see State, Region, Metro, City and Most Specific Location data. Additionally you can also see if a searchers was physically in a certain location or if they were just searching terms about the location. This may help with travel, mortgage, or other companies that serve customers outside their local geography.

Use these great reports to better optimize your PPC budget and drive more conversions!

Writing SEO Titles that Encourage Clicks

If you’ve been working in the SEO field for any length of time, you’re likely familiar with the standard Title template:

Primary Keyword | Secondary Keyword | Tertiary Keywords | Brand Name

The idea that it’s good SEO to have all your keywords in your Title Element, while a proven method, has begun to lose it’s luster over the last few years.  While it allows a Title element to cover all bases and may help admittedly with ranking signals, more and more Google is paying attention to engagement and user-intent than ever before.

This also ignores the increase in search prowess for the typical user who has begun to attribute certain mental models to what they encounter in search results.  Take for instance these two examples of a Title element:

  • Affordable Desks | Cheap Desks | Budget Desks – Desks-For-Less
  • Quality affordable desks that fit any budget | Desks-For-Less

The first hits all the standard marks.  Lead with your primary keyword, list your secondary keywords and your brand.  However, when compared to a title wrote towards the intent of the user, it reads as spammy and robotic while the latter still includes the primary keyword but drives home their value.   The issue at hand has become that optimizing Titles has been long stuck in optimizing for rank while meta-descriptions were to influence engagement versus the more modern ideal which is optimizing both for engagement.

What many marketers forget is that their search results are not just competing for rank but competing for engagement against results that may be more optimized for relevance and engagement than theirs.  Take for instance these results for “Fashionable shoes for tall men” (I’m 6’8″ so this search happens daily):

google search results for tall fashion

Despite my searching for what fashionable shoes for tall men, many of the results are targeting someone wanting a shoe that makes them taller.  Taking that to the Title Element, compare the Tall Shoes | Height Increasing Shoes  to the 10 Style Tips for Tall Guys from an NBA Stylist result and imagine which would be more enticing to me based on my search intent?

When approaching the Title element, try and consider why a user is searching for your products or services.  While keyword data may return a number of variants for the same product, the days of simply adding each into your Title and measuring its success solely on rank are behind us.  The goal should be combining your keyword data with the topics and user intent behind your customer’s searches so that your search results provide the most relevant option to them.

Want to learn more?  Moz has put together a good list of 8 old school SEO best practices that are no longer effective including a section on Title elements.


Tools to Help with Keyword Research in 2017

SEO continues to evolve as it always has and one of the core aspects of SEO, keyword research, is no different.

While the classic method of keyword research has been identifying the best keyword opportunities and then creating individual pages with on-page content focusing on those exact keywords, Google’s continued focus on user-intent has forced content creators to focus on the intent of a user’s search versus matching towards select keywords.

So, with Google focusing more and more on returning results that match with the full intent of a user’s search versus matching keywords, what does that mean for you?  Does the classic style of exact keyword research still work?  Or should you be focusing simply on researching broad, topical context strategies when creating and optimizing content for SEO?

Most experts in the SEO realm, like Moz, believe that a combination of the two keyword research strategies is what will continue to work best.

Tl:dr: Keyword research in 2017 should focus both on what question is your content answering and what questions are your target customers asking?

That means that the classic method of keyword research is still vital but so is making sure you understand if your content is answering the same question topics your customers are asking.

What tools should I use to research at Topics?

There’s a host of good topic research tools out there, he’s a few of my favorites:

What tips or tools have you found useful for your online marketing in 2017?



How to Prepare for Google’s Mobile-First Index Change

If you follow the SEO industry, you’ve likely heard that Google has begun testing its Mobile-First Index.  If not, the short-version is Google currently indexes both the Desktop and Mobile versions of your website based on the Desktop version.  Google now plans to flip that and begin indexing your Desktop & Mobile versions based on the Mobile version of your website.

“Awesome.  So what?”

Well, for those of you with a standard Responsive or Dynamic Serving website, there isn’t much to worry about as quoted by the Google Webmaster Blog:

If you have a responsive site or a dynamic serving site where the primary content and markup is equivalent across mobile and desktop, you shouldn’t have to change anything.

Seems you can sit back and relax.

But I don’t have a responsive website though…

For those of you with a website that serves different markup to mobile and desktop and feel that your organic search results are important, the Mobile-First Index is another signal that Google is looking to push website owners further towards a responsive standard for the web. At this point, if you run a website, you’ve likely had to field the “Why aren’t we responsive yet?”question. And if you haven’t, the Mobile First Index test is a great conversation starter for a move to Responsive. With that in mind, I’ve put together the below list of guides that can get you on the right path towards avoiding penalties when Google pushes the Mobile First Index live in 2017.


What The 2016 Election Taught Us About User Research

The 2016 presidential election has come and gone. We won’t get into politics here, but I think we can all agree it was a shock that Donald Trump was able to overcome what seemed to be a large gap. But the question many have been asking is, did the gap really ever exist? Did anyone bother to ask rural America how they might be voting? This is a huge issue within many businesses as well. When was the last time you ‘polled’ your audience? When was the last time you asked your customers what they wanted? This user research is paramount to a an optimized marketing and website experience.

Customer Surveys

Conducting a survey is one of the easiest types of user research around. It’s easy to use a survey tool, such as Survey Monkey, to ask your customers what they may want to see out of your business offerings or website experience. We’ve seen the most success when surveys are short, maybe 3-5 questions, but try to never go above 10 unless you are providing some kind of offer.

Old Fashioned Talking

It’s ok to reach out to customers every once in a while to get a sense of how they feel about your brand. This one-on-one user research method can be focus groups or a simply phone call. The act of holding the conversation goes a long way with customer and audience trust. The most important thing that comes from it is that customers feel a part of your business, galvanizing their support for your brand!

Usability Testing

You’ve probably heard of AB Testing, but its cousin is Usability Testing and a really great way to use user research to get real time feedback of abandonment points on your website. Usability testing is where a moderator will walk audiences through processes or site sections to see how easy it is to perform actions on your website or compare them to a newly proposed alternative. After about 5 participants the answers start to repeat so you could do this exercise in as little as 10 total work hours.

These are all just a few ways you can connect with your audience for very little investment. If you’re interested in understanding your audience in more detail and optimizing your website accordingly contact us by filling out the form on the right hand side of this page (or below on mobile!).

Pay Per Click Strategy vs Management

In the last week we’ve had two separate clients remark to us about their displeasure with the way they pay for Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertising and the lack of PPC Strategy. Side note, we do not handle their PPC (yet). Below is an outline of what came from our discussions.

PPC Management

When these clients described the way they were sold the management of their PPC campaigns it was all the same. “We’ll ‘manage’ your PPC account for X% of your spend” was the common synopsis. The problem here is that it really only includes the “management” part and little to no “strategy”. Both clients were frustrated because all they received was a report showing the numbers. Impressions, Clicks, Quality Scores and Conversions are all well and good, but how are you optimizing the account?

PPC Strategy

A number of our clients have moved to a more strategic model and away from simply “Management”. Management is the easy part, which is why most agencies have a junior-level resource watching over your account. It’s a margin game! So break free of the game and start making strategic optimizations to your PPC account on your own. It all begins by developing your initial PPC Strategy, by evaluating opportunity keywords, developing relevant ad copy, and selecting the most relevant and conversion-focused landing page. This is where a company like Bluefin Strategy comes in. We have provided strategies for many of our clients who then can easily manage their own accounts day-to-day or we work with them to get a management platform in place. Again, the management part is easy, it’s more about what strategic changes have to take place in order to take the account to the next level!

Don’t settle for simple “PPC Management”. If you’re still paying a percentage of your PPC spend and getting nothing out of it then it’s time to shift your campaigns into full gear with a sound PPC Strategy & Optimization plan. Start targeting your search audience at the right time with the right message today and see more conversions tomorrow!

Online Marketing Strategy You Say?

Current Digital Marketing Landscape

In today’s complex digital marketing landscape decisions are made on a daily basis.

  • What marketing tactics should we use?
  • Where should we drive visitors?
  • What do we do with the pages to make visitors convert more?

Often these questions are answered by pulling some data from the analytics platform and running with whatever it spits out. But what if the data is skewed, what if visitors simply don’t see what you are promoting on your pages?

This is the heart of digital strategy. Taking data, evaluating what they say, deciphering the user intent, and ultimately recommending a better approach. All too often these steps are not taken into account and the design team simply requests some data that either confirms or goes against their design theory and they move on.

The Why of Digital Strategy

Data is any marketing team’s best friend. Tracking opens, clicks, engagement and conversion happens every day, every hour, every second. But often we get lost in the data and we are no longer telling a story or creating a journey. When data alone is the only means of decision making it can easily lead you astray.

The Analytics Gap

A digital strategist can bridge the gap, translating volumes of data into actionable advice and clear recommendations.

For example, analytics may show that no one visits the “locations” page on your site. So the data would suggest that it is unimportant and can be buried. However, what if the links to the page are hidden or the color of the button/text do not stand out?

The data provided a problem, but the digital strategist can provide the solution.

The Design Gap

On the other side, a design mockup can be developed that is stunning, but when it goes live, engagement drops like a rock. Had a digital strategist been involved, they would have uncovered that 90% of website traffic views it in a browser smaller than a tablet. Since the design did not account for such a small screen size, only 10% of the audience saw its beauty.

And Before You Start

A digital strategist is the key to day-to-day marketing decisions as well as the principle of any web project. A digital strategist not only evaluates web analytics, but conducts surveys and Q&A sessions with stakeholders and visitors to gauge their needs and wants, develops website testing plans to evaluate website usability, and so much more.

A handful of hours at the beginning of a project can save you thousands in the long run and tons of frustration. A digital strategist gets to the bottom of any user problem online and helps to ensure your digital efforts are optimized for website conversion!

3 Free Blogging Tools to Combat Writer’s Block

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Writing, regularly, is difficult for most. It requires a deep well of inspiration and discipline, tightly aligned with the ability to allow the perfectionist within us all to let go of the reins on a regular basis.

However, the myth usually surrounds the enviable idea that most writers are at least writing about their passions. For us Marketers that have to do this regularly but on topics we may lack passion on, simply getting started can be a monumental task.

Given this, I’ve put together three websites I use to help me get over the initial hump of generating topics. Getting this first step down makes the next step easier and snowballs into momentum, which is what all of us need as writers to generate near infinitely.

Portent’s Title Generator


Portent’s Content Idea Generator is the first place I go whenever I have a writing assignment on the horizon. Matched with a slick design and clever tutorial tips, it simply asks you to put in a topic (anything you want) and responds back with a singular, random 4-piece topic idea.

Hitting the refresh button will endlessly churn out new ideas, giving me a very quick set of titles based on a topic to start from. Below are some examples I did just now:

  • The Only Digital Publishing Resources You Will Ever Need
  • 19 Things Your Boss Expects You Know About Digital Publishing
  • How Digital Publishing Will Stop Poverty

It doesn’t write the article for you. It simply gives some ideas (many very clever as they sometimes insert pop culture references) to start from.

With a few ideas in mind, I move to my next site:

Answer the Public Topic Generator

Answer the Public Idea Generator Screenshot

Answer the Public isn’t the same type of site as Portent’s Idea Generator. It returns actual questions searched by users on topics you search for.

Note: When searching, the only annoyance is the “Country” drop down defaults to UK. Ensure you check that with each search.

Using the above ideas from my searches on Portent, I then take the singular keywords (digital publishing) and see what actual questions people are asking regarding the topic, like the below:

  • digital publishing without adobe
  • digital publishing with xml
  • problems with digital publishing

These are singular instances of searches the site returns from Google/Bing that give me a few ideas on what I should possibly add to my topic if any are relevant.

It’s important to note, this is more an optional step I take to see if any inspiration hits me that I wasn’t expecting. Most often, the results return bland or irrelevant options but each gives me a good idea on the structure I should use on my overall topic regardless.

Once checked, I simply move on to the next step.

HubSpot Title Generator

Hubspot Blog Topic Generator Screenshot

By now, I likely have a few terms and structures I’m considering. In this instance, the “How Digital Publishing Will Stop Poverty” has began to nag at me as a very interesting idea I could begin to research.

With that, I use HubSpot’s Topic Generator and enter up to three terms to get some final topic ideas, like the below:

  • How To Solve The Biggest Problems With Poverty
  • 14 Common Misconceptions About Poverty
  • The Superpower the Digital Publishing Industry is Hiding

Again, these are to simply see if anything adds to my already branching ideas. I’ll typically research multiple times until I’m certain the ideas being returned don’t detract or deter my anticipated course. In the above, it simply gave me some added ideas on how to approach a topic that is both sensitive, human and likely not considered a tie between digital publishing and poverty.

With that done, I begin my research and my writing.

The above, typically taking me around 5-10 minutes and aiding me to skip the part of chewing on my pen and staring at a wall until my head magically makes a new idea.

What is Google Tag Manager?

We’ve had a lot of clients ask exactly what is Google Tag Manager and does it have anything to do with a collection of Tag Heuer watches?. The quick answer is it is AWESOME for marketers and NO, you don’t get any jewelry out of it. Instead of telling you how to install Google Tag Manager though we’re simply going to walk through why it’s so valuable and why you should get on installing Google Tag Manager immediately!

What is Google Tag Manager?

Google Tag Manager can house nearly every tag on your website, including tracking tags for Google Analytics, Google AdWords, Microsoft Bing, DoubleClick, etc. It can also allow you to fire code on pages for various other things such as a popups, chat functionality, and more.

What Google Tag Manager is not…

Google Tag Manager does not hold any data, does not display any metrics, nor does it do analysis of any kind. And, as we mentioned earlier, it is not a way for you to manage your collection of Tag Heuer watches.

Why is Google Tag Manager Useful?

Google Tag Manager takes away a lot of the reliance on development teams for marketing needs, such as adding conversion pixels or other tracking needs. It allows a way for a marketer to quickly and easily put tags on their website without having to go through a development sprint or push cycle, as they simply add a tag into the system and click publish.

How to install Google Tag Manager

I know earlier we said we wouldn’t talk about this, but we simply want to point out how easy it is. Just like your analytics code, Google Tag Manager has a simple javascript snippet that goes on every page of your website. Once in place you use the system to define variables and triggers that fire your tags. SOME development may be needed to track Commerce or to add things into the dataLayer, but that’s more advanced and you’ll probably want help from an expert at that point anyhow (and if you do contact us!).

Google Tag Manager gives marketers more control over their website and minimizes the need for developer involvement. It’s a win-win for both sides and allows the development team to focus on other more important projects. Instantly add tags to the site and update tags at will! Google Tag Manager is an incredibly powerful tool that EVERY website should consider adding.