I grew up in Pittsburgh and went to undergrad at Carnegie Mellon. Pittsburgh is an amazing city. It's evolved dramatically from the city in which I grew up. I lived through the deindustrialization and the devastation that wrought on the Pittsburgh area. To see the city now, and how its transformed, is a testament to the hardworking drive, pride, grid, and determination of its people.
The information technology revolution, like the industrial revolution before it, has not benefited everyone equally. There have been some major winners and losers in this transformation. While the urban core, Allegheny county has seen a tremendous renaissance, the old industrial surrounding counties of Washington, Westmoreland, and others have continued to decline. This has left the region deeply divided. It's akin to gentrification on regional vs. neighborhood level.
One of the challenges small businesses face in the politically divided time is which target customer to serve. Much of this will be based on geography, but there is a strategic choice to be made whether to support the new or stick with the traditional. At this time, serving them both will likely be challenging.
Great web design is important no matter where you are located. However, Pittsburgh hasn't been the steel city for ages. That era has passed. The city is now a hot spot for technology and medicine. These customers, I would argue, have come to expect superior design as the price of entry. Therefore, you do not want to be at a disadvantage.
For a web design to be successful, it needs to be fast & responsive to do well on mobile, and intuitive so users find what they need quickly.
I remember as a kid the five second rule. If food fell on the floor, it was still ok to eat it if was on the ground for less than five seconds.
Turns out that germs are more forgiving than mobile users. There is not broad agreement, but it seems they follow the under three second rule.
If a page takes over 3 seconds to load, mobile users bounce as the Pingdom chart below suggests.
SEMRush gauges page speed using a 1 second rule. I would argue they are closer. My personal experience suggests that the widow has continued to narrow.
Search engines grade your speed as part of your ranking. Therefore, page speed is an important factor in search engine optimization.
The root cause of most speed issues is the content management system (CMS) that you choose for your website.
In plain English, these are programs such as WordPress and Wix. These programs have three parts.
The browser has to fetch the data and the full theme in order to render the page. After the browser parses the content, it has to sort through all of the themes features to see which to use. This causes delays in loading, which is typically called render blocking CCS.
With all these disadvantages, you might ask why someone would choose a CMS. A CMS is user friendly. They are faster to build, easier to maintain, and simpler to update. You do not need to understand coding or even basic HTML or CSS commands to get great looking results.
The key issue with the theme. Every theme carries a set of instructions called cascading style sheets (CSS), which tell the browser how the page should look. It will load your content onto the screen following these instructions.
According to Best Designs, original graphics are the most successful.
“Original graphics make up 40% of all successful visual content that accomplishes marketing goals, but 43% of marketers struggle with the consistent production of captivating visuals.”
Since we are communicating one message, the artwork that supports it must work very hard to support the message. This is where local market know-how can really help. Original photos and images of your business in Kipps Bay interacting with your neighborhood can add value.
It also helps with when your calls to action focus on local events in and around Pittsburgh or at your business location.
Every email, no matter how trivial, should have a call to action. This is where all the hard work above pays off. If we omit one, we just wasted resources that could have been spent more cost effectively.
We cover email list building in great detail in our post on small business email marketing. Again, we will just hit the highlights here as it pertains to Pittsburgh. Every neighborhood has summer fairs. While these were severely impacted by COVID, in our post COVID world they should roar back with a vengeance. It would be smart to see if you could piggy-back off one or more of them.
Incentives, deals, free trials, and samples are all great options when developing your calls to action. See if you can partner with your neighbors to create a shared promotion. This way one shopper in Pittsburgh has two or more places to visit while out in the neighborhood.
Like the gentrifying neighborhoods I deal with in NYC, Pittsburgh small businesses have a choice to make. Which is your best target? There will be those unique businesses that can appeal to both new and existing economies and mindsets, but that will not be the norm. Depending on your business, it may force you to choose. Once you make that choice, Local digital marketing can help you reach that target more effectively.
If your developer helps you set up your tracking codes and other third party integrations, then you can minimize any issues those create.
The beauty of a custom build is there is no trade-off between speed and quality. When you factor in the lost revenue from bounces and poor conversion that a slower site creates, the investment generally pays for itself.
It does not matter that much which theme you choose. All will need some modification to be to pull you out of the 20-40s on Google Page Speed Insights.
There are three common options.
Users expect the same level of user experience (UX) regardless of device. This is simply the bare minimum of performance.
Custom builds are generally designed for mobile first. They are first designed to work on mobile, then scaled for desktop, not the other way around.
There are several very good themes across CMS providers that can provide a seamless UX experience. However, they require some quality control.
These are not generally built mobile first. Therefore the first issue is image sizing. If you let the theme do it, it can cost you on performance. Therefore, you will want to be mindful of these pitfalls if you go this route.
The key challenge with any design is that it is so easy to lost in the visual and aesthetics that we lose track of why people come to a site.
Fundamentally, a website is a communication tool. If we lose sight of this purpose, the performance in terms of dwell time, bounce, or conversion will suffer.
In fact, when users were asked what they valued most in a website they chose finding information by a 7 to 1 margin.
A separate report showed 60% users left because they could find what they needed.
For a great web design, it should excel in three key areas.
Aside from all the general tips above, here are some specific actions you can take based on the three key elements of local search algorithms:
All of this assumes that you have completed your keyword research and developed your keyword list. If you have not, this section will be more effective once you do. Please see our previous post on digital marketing in Pittsburgh and then come back.
Go through your keywords list and select those which are good descriptors of your business. If it were me, I would use something like “digital marketing agency”, “seo services”, for example. Then make a list of the neighborhoods you service, for example “seo services oakland”, "pittsburgh seo experts", or “pittsburgh seo company”.
Now comes the harder part, that is frankly a bit tedious. For each combination, see if you can create a somewhat unique post that’s 500-1000 words for that keyword. For us, it is a post like this. I try to write a post that helps my potential clients learn something or do something they didn’t know they could.
Now, this is the good part. If you do write quality posts for these keywords, you will be raising your prominence. Google knows that all these neighborhoods are in the Pittsburgh region. So, for each good post you write, you help raise your prominence on a given topic in a given location. It is also important to make sure that your web design includes location pages for each area you serve.
Prominence is also helped by the basic techniques I mentioned earlier, such as being a part of local business groups. Please see the Pittsburgh Business Times or Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce for listings that might pertain to you. Any local listing helps. The more you establish that you are located in Pittsburgh, PA, the better your local rankings will be.
This is why I like the blog technique because it hits all three key areas. If your keyword is a descriptor of what you do and the neighborhood is one you serve, it is highly likely that you will score points on relevance.
Finding the right SEO for your small business in a neighborhood like Pittsburgh can be a crucial way to get your company noticed online.
There is one last point to make on SEO and social media. Social media is not a ranking factor. However, if promoting your business through social channels leads to more links, it helps with both prominence and relevance.
If you are interested in what more we do, check out Small Business Marketing in Pittsburgh