Developing an SEO Strategy for Tennessee Businesses

SEO for Nashville, Knoxville, Johnson City, Memphis, and Everything In Between

The business community in Tennessee is thriving. New businesses are popping up all over the state: new restaurants, new microbreweries, new and expanding manufacturing, and so much more. A strong economy and increased access to high-speed internet services has created a boom in new businesses that need websites and successful SEO strategies to get them noticed.

If you’re one of the many new Tennessee business owners (or one that’s been around for a while) and you’re looking for a way to give your website a boost in search engine results in a clean and organic way, we’re Tennessee-based SEO experts and we’re here to help!

SEO in Johnson City, TN

Johnson City, TN thriving downtown - ITD Interactive SEO blog

Photo by mrgriffter / Wikimedia Commons

At ITD Interactive we’re partial to Johnson City because that’s where we’re based! Our local economy has taken off in the past several years with a big focus on the downtown area. Dozens of formerly vacant buildings have been developed into restaurants, breweries, local retailers, and more. The downtown area and beyond have turned into a hotspot of activity with tons of foot traffic that should be appealing to anyone with a dream to open their own business. A good SEO strategy for a developing area like Johnson City is to leverage the “shop local” movement as customers transition from shopping at the chains and big box stores that have been here for decades to focusing more on new locally owned and family businesses.


SEO in Knoxville, TN

Knoxville, TN skyline - ITD Interactive SEO blog

Photo by Nathan C. Fortner / Wikimedia Commons

Knoxville is a unique city when it comes to the local business community. It’s a large city of over 185,000 and home to the University of Tennessee. Knoxville has a thriving and eclectic downtown area full of local retailers, breweries and restaurants. The greater Knoxville area is home to many corporate offices, industries, retailers, and much more. To stand out in search results against other Knoxville businesses you’ll need to use a strategy that competes against those with a long history in the area. A strategy that utilizes landing pages to target specific services or products you offer will help you funnel potential customers from a search engine directly into your inbox.


SEO in Nashville, TN

Nashville, TN music scene and night life - ITD Interactive SEO blog

Photo by dconvertini / Wikimedia Commons

The heart of Nashville is naturally the music industry, but Tennessee’s capital is also known for its honky tonks, restaurants, breweries, and other industries that cater to tourism. Professional sports help bring in millions of tourists annually with the Tennessee Titans football team, Nashville Predators hockey team, and a pro soccer team coming soon. Higher education and related industries are important to the city economy as well – Nashville boasts many universities and colleges including Vanderbilt, Belmont, Tennessee State University along with several other schools in the city and in the general area. Any new business in Nashville catering to these industries absolutely needs to leverage those areas of activity when considering SEO services. It can be difficult to rank highly in an area saturated with so many existing businesses but the right SEO strategy using long tail keywords can help you find interested customers in a crowded market.


SEO in the Rest of Tennessee

Tennessee is a big state and every part of it is different when it comes to business. The right SEO strategy for your Tennessee business website needs to be customized for you and where you’re based, not a one-size-fits-all solution. If you’re ready to get your website noticed, contact us today and see how ITD Interactive can create the right SEO strategy for you.

Things You Should Never, Ever, Ever Do On Your Website

Website Maintenance That Won’t Crash Your Site!

Here at ITD Interactive we’ve had 20 years in the business of web development, website maintenance services, and website hosting for local clients and beyond. In that time we’ve also taken over some old websites that needed to be redone and spruced up. It’s in that work that we’ve come across many web design no-no’s that you should never do yourself.

Part of our standard web design package includes staff training so that our clients will always be able to update their own sites. While we’re happy to continue working on sites if needed, we don’t believe in forcing clients to use us exclusively for their maintenance and updates.

For those of you want to be adventurous and update your own sites, take a look through this list of what NOT to do first.

DON’T: Self-host a video for a website background

Using a video as a hero background is a great way to add motion and personality to your site. But be careful when setting it up – uploading your video directly to your media folder could bring your whole site down.

Look at it this way: on average a looped video file that’s been processed for use on the web is still going to be about 5 megabytes. If one or two people open your website and download that file, it’s no big deal. But if for some reason you get a rush of 200 people looking at your site all at once, suddenly 200 people are trying to download that 5mb file at the same time and using up a gigabyte of bandwidth. For many lower-end hosting plans that can be a huge chunk of your monthly allotted bandwidth, and using that much at once can even entirely crash your site so that nobody will be able to look at it without a time-consuming and expensive support call.

Do this instead: Plan ahead for these traffic rushes by using a third party site to host your video. Many slider plugins will let you easily paste in the URL of the video and display it perfectly on your slider without using any of your bandwidth. This should go for any video, not just backgrounds! There are plenty of great options available for video hosting like Vimeo or even YouTube.

DON’T: Upload full-size images

Just like self-hosted video files, it would only take a few huge images on your website for a traffic rush to bring your server to a crashing halt. Raw files that come straight off a phone or camera can be 10mb in size or greater, so uploading lots of these will burn through your allotted bandwidth and disk space more quickly that you can imagine. It’ll also drive your users crazy if they have to wait for huge files to download before the entire site can be seen, especially if they’re using a mobile phone on wireless data to view your site.

Do this instead: Process your images first before uploading by resizing and optimizing them in a program like Photoshop. If you don’t have access to Photoshop there are free alternatives online like Pixlr. For most uses your image shouldn’t need to be larger than 1920px on the longest side at 72 PPI, compared to the huge 2500px+/300 PPI files from your smartphone or camera. You can save your images in JPG format for most situations – you should only need a bulkier PNG or a GIF in special circumstances that require higher definition or a transparent background.

DON’T: Forget about the mobile version of your site

More than half of the visitors to your site will view it on a mobile device. Not only that, but Google now actively penalizes sites that aren’t optimized for use on mobile. It’s absolutely crucial to work on the mobile view of your site alongside the desktop view! Ignoring this step when adding or changing content will result in frustrated mobile users leaving your site and Google knocking it down in search engine ranking.

Do this instead: Always test your site in a mobile view when adding new content. Use a phone or tablet to open your site, or if you don’t have one available you can resize your browser window into a vertical ratio to get a good idea of how your site will look on a mobile device. Make changes as needed to make sure all of your content can be viewed and navigated normally.

These are a just few of the major no-no’s to watch out for in website maintenance, but believe us when we say there will always plenty more lurking. Keeping a website up and running with fresh content is crucial to any business

If maintaining your own website is becoming too much of a burden, talk to us about our maintenance plans!

We’ve got a package to fit any size business with any size budget and will work with you to make sure your website is always updated and filled with fresh content tailor made to boost your presence. Contact us today to find out how to get started.

Tackling Your Website’s ADA Compliance Checklist

Making your website ADA compliant is a tricky and complicated task that’s recently become a hotly debated issue, but we here at IT Decisions are ready to help you get started and up to code!

What exactly is ADA Compliance and why do websites need it?

In a nutshell, ADA (the Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance is working through a general checklist of tasks and guidelines to make sure your website can be easily and freely accessed by visitors who are differently-abled, such as blind users who use audio narration software to read websites to them or deaf users who need closed captions because they can’t hear the embedded audio in videos. The goal is to ensure that anyone who comes to your site won’t be blocked from accessing any of the content or information by means of good, thoughtful design or alternative methods of accessing the content.

Do all websites have to be ADA compliant?

While the ADA guidelines are vague when it comes to website accessibility it’s become a “better safe than sorry” situation that every site owner should consider, especially if your site is for a government organization or a public service. If a lawsuit is filed that your website is not accessible, you can be accused of discrimination and held liable to the tune of thousands of dollars in damages and legal fees.

Don’t let the threat of a lawsuit make you think accessibility isn’t important on its own! An open and accessible internet for everyone is something all site owners and developers should strive for. When we build a site we make sure that many of these items are cleared right out of the box, like making sure that all images have alt text and every page has a clear heading.

ADA Compliant design is good design!

One of the best things about making your site ADA compliant is that it also results in a clean, usable site for everyone. It can even help boost your SEO rankings! Many of the tasks required to make a site ADA compliant overlap with the ones to make a site user and SEO-friendly, like adding helpful alt text to every important image and using headings to make your site more readable. Getting your site compliant with ADA would work hand in hand with a larger SEO strategy designed to make your site more usable and visible to Google and other search engines.

ITD Interactive has the tools needed to make your site ADA compliant

If your site is a little older it wouldn’t hurt to have it scanned to see what needs to be improved to make your site ADA compliant. Many of the guidelines are common to newer sites, like including closed captions in videos, but if your site was built before video content was common then that’s just one thing that will likely need to be addressed.

ITD Interactive specializes in making websites ADA compliant and we can help make sure your site is both safe from litigation but more importantly accessible to anyone who wants to check out your content.

We’re a local business in Johnson City, Tennessee, but we can scan and improve sites anywhere around the country since these guidelines are so universal.

Contact ITD Interactive today if you’d like us to look at your site to see what it would take to make your website fully ADA compliant.

 

ITD Interactive - Inbound Marketing, SEO, eCommerce and Web Design

Why You Should Use Local Web Designers for Your Local Business Website

The business climate has been great for locally owned and operated businesses for the last several years. Many people feel a renewed sense of community. Supporting local small businesses is the perfect way to start loving where you live!

From restaurants and breweries to manufacturers and industrial facilities, local businesses are booming and they all have one thing in common: they need a well-designed website to stand out, search engine optimization to be found, and a social media strategy that will help them engage with the local market. That’s where your friendly neighborhood local web design and marketing firms like ITD Interactive come in!

Local Web Designers Understand Your Market and Customers

We understand your market because we are your market! We spend a lot of time examining and researching the local market for the same reason any local business does: to look for ways to expand our reach and find new customers. A local design firm will have a better understanding of how to reach local customers than a group from hundreds of miles away who may have never even stepped foot in your market before.

Here at ITD Interactive we always try to support our local businesses in the Tri-Cities. There’s no better way to understand how to reach customers of a business than to be a customer of that business yourself.

Local Web Designers Are a Part of Your Local Network

Since we all work in the same business community, there’s a good chance that we’ll know more than a few of the same people. This is a perfect opportunity to get real-world reviews. Just ask someone you know who’s worked with us! Every local business owner knows there’s no advertising better than good word-of-mouth. Take a look at our portfolio and testimonials to get an idea of who we’ve worked with.

Local Web Designers Are a Phone Call or Quick Trip Across Town Away

A quick Google search is all it takes to know there are a lot of options out there when it comes to building a website. There are definitely a lot of talented designers in the field. But there’s always a catch! If you’re a small business owner in Johnson City, TN and decide to go with a web design firm in Chicago or even somewhere a little closer like Asheville to build your site, you’ll always be working around their schedule. Designers in other cities often have a lot of local clients. They may even be in another time zone or work a totally different schedule. It may be difficult to get them on the phone if you have questions about your website or if your site is down and need to get it back up as soon as possible so you don’t lose any business.

ITD Interactive is a Proud Local Johnson City, TN Web Design Agency!

ITD Interactive is a local web site design firm. That means we’re within miles of any business in Johnson City and a short trip from Bristol, Kingsport, and the rest of the Tri-Cities area. We’re in the office normal hours every weekday and will respond to you within a business day if we happen to miss your call. When you need to see how something works you can drop by our office any time for a hands-on tutorial. If you’re lucky you’ll be here on a day that JC brings in her famous chocolate-chip cookies – we’re happy to share if there are any left!

If you’re in the Tri-Cities and are ready to see the difference in working with local, personable web designers drop us a line and let’s get to work!

 

ITD Interactive - Inbound Marketing, SEO, eCommerce and Web Design

Web Design vs. Web Development – What’s the Difference?

As an entrepreneur, sometimes you’ll have a really great idea that won’t quite fit into the boundaries of a traditional WordPress or eCommerce site. There are many plugins and extensions available for each platform that can help make your ideas work but in some cases something more custom-made is better suited for your needs.

So…Web Design or Web Development?

The terms are often used interchangeably, but for the sake of clarity in this article we’re going to differentiate between the two. Web design typically refers to creating the layout and overall look of your site. Web development refers to the actual nitty-gritty of building a site or app like writing code and making major changes to established frameworks.

At ITD Interactive we primarily do our work on two platforms: WordPress for “normal” websites and Magento for eCommerce sites. Both are open source, secure solutions with a rich support network that make building sites for local businesses efficient and cost-effective. If you’ve got a more complicated idea than a standard WordPress or Magento site, custom development may be a better option.

Web Development Work is Customized for You

Since every client is different, our custom development work is a whole new piece of work for each client. One website might need a custom-made price calculator while another might need a color picker to help customers design buildings.

The great thing about WordPress and Magento is they’re easily adaptable with all kinds of available resources, meaning we have everything we need to make your idea work without breaking your budget.

Custom Web Development is Secure and Efficient

WordPress and Magento are open-source platforms, meaning anyone is free to build “plugins” or “extensions” that add new features to a website. Plugins can be useful to quickly make a site come to life but using too many of them can quickly bog your site down with unnecessary functions. Many plugins can be old and out of date with many vulnerabilities that leave your site open to malicious hackers. Other plugins can be full of added features you don’t even need.

Opting for a custom-built website or plugin means you get only what you need out of your website without any bloated unnecessary features that make your site slower and easier for hackers to break into. When you choose to go the custom development route you get only what you pay for — not a one-size-fits-all solution.

Custom Web Development Gives You Complete Control

Since you’re basically starting from scratch, every single facet of your project is totally up to you from the general look and feel of the site to how it reacts to input from users. We’ll work with you to make sure your site looks just the way you want it and works in a way that will keep your users coming back.

This level of customizability gives you an added benefit in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) because we’ll be able to precisely fine-tune it to get you the best results possible without any of the filler that comes in cookie-cutter website templates.

Maybe Web Design is All You Need!

If this all sounds overwhelming and you just need a simple, basic website or eCommerce store, we can certainly help you out with that too! Visit our Web Design services page or read more on our web design and marketing blog for more information.

Your ITD Interactive Project is Yours

Once your site or app is finished by ITD Interactive, it gets turned over to you as the owner whether you’re a web design or full development customer. We don’t retain the rights or hold your site hostage if you decide to move your it to another hosting or maintenance service in the future. Many one-size-fits-all website solutions leave you tied to a contract that means if you stop paying you no longer have a website and have to start from scratch.

With your ideas and our expertise, we can build something together that will make building your brand and business easier than ever before. Ask us how to get started today!

Low-Cost Hubspot Alternatives We Use Everyday

Low Cost Hubspot Alternatives for Marketing AutomationUnless you are new to the world of Inbound Marketing and Marketing Automation – you have no doubt heard of Hubspot.  You might have even seen a demo or viewed a webinar.  Speaking from personal experience as former Certified Partners, Hubspot is the cream of the crop.  They offer an incredible array of features and insight into your visitors.  There’s just one problem – not everyone can afford the price tag!  The entry level packages start at $200/month, but in order to get the most popular features, you are looking at $800-$1000/mo for a minimum number of contacts.  One of the main reasons Hubspot is so expensive is that they cover so many things on their platform.  Email, Contact Lists, Lead scoring, Content Management, Social Publishing, SEO Analysis, etc.

So What are some Hubspot Alternatives?

One thing we found when we used Hubspot was that being a WordPress user, we weren’t taking advantage of a lot of Hubspots features – but we were sure paying for them!.  So, as much as we loved Hubspot, we decided to take the time to find alternatives that would cost much less, while offering the same results.  We get a lot of questions about hubspot alternatives and decided to write this post to cover some of our favorites.   We hope you will find them useful as well!

Hatchbuck – Marketing Automation

Hatchbuck - Marketing AutomationHatchbuck, which starts at $99/mo, is the most full-featured of the products we chose to facilitate our marketing automation.  Hatchbuck’s standard features include: contact management, lead scoring, form generation & conversion tracking, CRM, email creation. and mass-email service.  In a nutshell – Hatchbuck serves as the core of our marketing automation system.  It handles our marketing emails, automated drip email campaigns, and more.  Hatchbuck keeps track of each visitors activities on our site and wraps it all up in an easy to use contact management interface.  All in all – we couldn’t be happier with Hatchbuck.

WordPress – Content Management

Wordpress for Inbound MarketingOne big criticism many have of Hubspot is their content management system.  It isn’t that their CMS is bad, to the contrary, it is a very robust CMS.  The bigger issue is that there are so many great CMSs out there – why would you want to reinvent the wheel?  There is also the risk of something happening to Hubspot, and your site data is locked in a proprietary CMS that you do not host.  We have long been fans of WordPress for its ease of use and for the fact we can make a WordPress site look any way we wish.  It is a great platform for Content Marketing and is very SEO friendly.  Best of all – WordPress is absolutely free!  Wordpress is by far the most popular CMS out there (in terms of installations, not personal opinion here).  It is also completely open-source and non-proprietary, meaning you can take your site anywhere.

Gravity Forms – Lead Generation

Gravity Forms - Best Form Builder for WordPressFirst of all, Hatchbuck lets you build forms and embed them in WordPress.  However, there are times we would rather control that process entirely on the website.  Gravity Forms makes it quite easy to set up a landing page form with downloadable content hidden behind a form.  Gravity forms is inexpensive ($39 for a single site license), and allows the user to create practically any type of form imaginable.  With their free addons, there is virtually no limit to what you can build.  Order forms, surveys, quizes, and of course – general contact forms.  One of the best things about Gravity Forms is the flexible confirmation and notification options.  You can develop custom notifications based on conditional logic.  For instance – you might have the user choose “general contact” or “technical support” when they fill out the form, and you could display a custom notification based on the choices they make.  These notifications can be used to deliver whitepapers, ebooks, etc.

Lead In – Lead Intelligence

Lead-In - Lead Intelligence for WordPressLead-in is a plugin for WordPress that was actually developed by Hubspot.  The idea was simple – to bring Hubspot-level visitor intelligence to WordPress, and NOT charge for it.  Lead In is a free plugin that offers a lot of additional functionality through “Power-Ups”.  Power-Ups include specialty stats, connectors for popular email services, pop-up forms and more.  Out of the box, Lead In pulls in a good bit of detail about a visitor, once they have filled out a form.  It tracks return visits, gives you detailed drill-down paths so you can study their behavior, and much more.  Lead In can often get the users company name and information, size and even social profiles, making it easy to get some background information on a lead before you reach out to them.

Mailchimp – Email Marketing

Mailchimp - Email Marketing & AutomationPersonally, we route all of our email through Hatchbuck.  However, we have a lot of clients that don’t need that level of marketing automation such as drip campaigns, etc.  For those situations, it is hard to beat Mailchimp.  For the record, you can actually set up drip campaigns in Mailchimp – however, if you plan on doing that a lot, you need to look at a system designed for that sort of activity.  At its core, Mailchimp provides a fantastic interface for creating and designing emails, managing your contact lists, and sending out mass marketing emails.  Mailchimp is free as long as your contact list stays under 2000 members (and you don’t mind the little monkey at the bottom of your emails).  When it becomes time to pay for your account, it starts out at $20-$30 per month.  Very reasonable!

A Final Thought…

This is certainly not an exhausting list of Hubspot Alternatives – if you are truly interested in apples-to-apples competitors of Hubspot, there are a few out there.  Google “marketing automation” and you will find a slew of products that fill this space.  Be warned though, many are equally expensive and some are even more!  If you have that kind of budget, you can’t go wrong with Hubspot.  For start-ups and small businesses, however, part of being a nimble and adaptive business is diversifying your tool-set.  Don’t put all your eggs (data) in one basket.  With the tools we mentioned above, you can put together a customized marketing automation suite that does just what you need.

Need Help with Marketing Automation, Inbound Marketing or SEO?

ITD Interactive is a full-service digital marketing agency.  From website and eCommerce development to full-scale inbound marketing and SEO services, we help businesses, large and small, increase their exposure online and generate more leads.  We have services available for all sizes of businesses and budgets.  Click on the link below to find out more!

ITD Interactive - Inbound Marketing, SEO, eCommerce and Web Design

 

eCommerce, General, Inbound Marketing, Local SEO, SEO, SEO for Small Business, Web Marketing, Websites