I admit it: I want to be the Central MA SEO expert. I want my company to be the go-to web marketing specialists for all Westminster-area local businesses.
I live in Ashburnham. I’m raising my kids here and I hope to retire here. I love this area.
So it’s both selfishly and selflessly that I take aim at becoming the go-to for web marketing in Central MA: it would obviously benefit my business to gain so many local clients.
But it would also benefit my fellow Ash/West/Fitch/Leominster/Gardner residents, helping the local business communities continue to thrive.
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Amherst SEO Projects
Our primary Amherst, MA SEO project is a website & ecommerce solution for a music & leadership education company in Amherst, MA.
We’ve actually had 3 Amherst SEO clients:
- Drum Major Academy
- UMass Band Parents Assoc
- UMass Drumline
But in this post, we’ll cover only one: the biggest (and proudest!) of our 3 SEO clients in Amherst.
Drum Major Academy
Amherst, MA 01002
DMA runs a series of summer camps for high school and college aged musicians, specifically marching band students.
They operate 14 locations around the US between June and September every year—and have been since 1978. The flagship location for the camp is at UMass Amherst, a proud gem of west-Central MA.
Camps are 5 days long and students a live on college campuses during their stay, many for their first time experiencing a slice of college.
SEO & marketing for DMA @ UMass Amherst & beyond
Here’s how this Amherst, MA-based company’s SEO project looks.
1. Website rebrand
A new site entirely. Total 180. The old website was plain HTML, built by hand. Lightning-fast load times but a nightmare to keep current.
We converted the site to WordPress and gave it a major overhaul.
Redesigns don’t always help SEO, of course. But as Google places more and more weight on user experience signals, the smooth, UX-friendly design of a website matters more and more.
Plus, SEO isn’t a goal unto itself, of course. The big picture here is sales. Any any good marketing professional will tell you that looks matter! So the redesign is in.
Looks better, right? Their customers think so too—in Amherst and beyond.
2. Email marketing campaign
But not your typical Constant Contact junk.
DMA has a unique niche. They advertise to teachers — to convince parents — to send their kids. Obviously the kids have to attracted and convinced too. But much of the outreach for attracting customers starts with the kids’ teachers.
So their email marketing strategy centers around high school music teachers in the US—all of them. What started as a USPS mail marketing campaign is migrating to be all-digital.
But, like all email marketing, they struggle with the challenge of cutting through the noise. How can they provide signal—in their case, actual educational value—to these music teachers and band directors, all from their main office in Amherst, MA?
Simple: talk to people.
Too many emails are the same [email protected] junk. They’ve full of table-layouts from 1996 and no one reads them.
So we’re taking a page out of the Backlinko and other SEO-star playbook: personal marketing emails. Not personalized (Greetings, [email protected]}!), but personal. They come from a person. And they feel like it.
Note the subject and first few lines. The email is supposedly about Star Wars, and it starts off sounding that way.
This is an email newsletter with 100,000+ subscribers from an SEO legend. I *KNOW* this email is not gonna be about Star Wars. But I’m intrigued. So I open and start reading.
It only takes a few lines, but Brian shifts the topic seamlessly from his youth and George Lucas’ ROI with the Star Wars franchise relaunch to his own SEO strategy. He hooks me with a relatable story and sucks me into his message.
He’s awesome, of course, so he delivers huge quality and value to his subscribers. But MAN, what a great marketing email.
It makes me want to read his stuff. Isn’t that every marketer’s dream?
Dan gets right to the point here: ordinary marketing emails bad; these marketing email examples good. And bonus: be name-drops Louis CK: undoubtedly the king of stand up comedy right now.
Again, Dan is emailing hundreds and thousands of SEO nerds about digital marketing. I know we’re not here to discuss Louis CK.
But the system works. I can relate. I’m interested. I keep reading.
One last example, someone NOT in the SEO niche: Tyler Zey.
Tyler sends these emails on behalf of his real estate marketing software, Easy Agent Pro. The emails go to newsletter subscribers, not necessarily his customers. I know this because I’m not his customer. But I did sign up for his emails—and they’re outstanding.
The subject is almost alarming: your emails? complete with all-lowercase, personal-feeling voice.
Then he hits you with “Don’t you hate that feeling…?” and WE ALL DO! Instantly relatable.
But one of my favorite tricks here is the second paragraph: “Here’s a sneaky productivity hack…” Tyler makes full use of modifiers to illicit a reaction in his readers. Definitely works on me!
3. Social media blitz
I kinda hate saying this because it’s so over-used, but it really is true: social media is about being social.
How many times have you seen some boring company’s boring Facebook page with 100 likes and no activity at all? It’s the worst. But it’s totally understandable.
People don’t care about companies. People care about themselves.
Therefore, people won’t come to you because of who you are. They will come to you (and your Facebook page) because of what you give them.
Sidenote: I’m a big believer in Simon Sinek’s Start with Why philosophy, but I wonder whether it has a front-row seat in social media.
More on that thought in another post…maybe.
So what do you give people in order to make your social media marketing strategies effective?
It sounds crazy, but if you represent your brand with a real, living breathing human, and interact with people on a human-to-human level, the results will be mind-blowing.
Share your stuff, sure. But that’s like 10% of your activity. The other 90% is interacting with other people—being friends with them. Like, share, and comment on their stuff. Make jokes. Follow up. Be a real person.
Never stop sharing. You gotta get to know your audience!
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Ashburnham SEO Projects
Our primary Ashburnham SEO project is a website & branding package for a photography website, Sarah Megan Photography.
Sarah Megan Photography
10 Water Street
Ashburnham, MA 01430
Sarah Megan is the owner and creative director of a small Ashburnham-based photography studio. She shoots all sorts of portraiture and candids, mostly for families, kids, and teens all over the Central, MA area.
After relocating from a shared studio in Littleton, Sarah now operates out of a large barn studio on Water Street. Much of her work is shot on-location, so she travels all over Ashburnham and surrounding towns.
The SEO we did for this Ashburnham business
Sarah came to us with a remote-hosted WordPress.com website, which is like trying to run a business on GeoCities.
She needed a way to market her services—all professional photography to the local Ashburnham and Central MA area—in a visual, but SEO-friendly way.
We had our work cut out for us with this project. Photography sites are notoriously hard to do SEO for.
We had 2 things working in our favor: writing and competition.
Any good SEO will tell you that the web still runs on text. Images are crucial (and, ironically, more compelling to users than text), but the search engines still need text to sink their little robot teeth into.
Sarah enjoys writing about her projects. So we developed a process for her to write at least a few hundred words about each portfolio and project of hers, all optimized to fit a certain set of local keyphrases.
As with any client, asking Sarah to modify her workflow to accommodate SEO requirements was difficult at first. But when clients see the value, as Sarah from Ashburnham did, the change comes easily.
Admittedly, the competition was very low for Sarah’s service and market. There are a number of photography franchises and chains in other nearby Central MA towns.
And Sarah competes with these chains for things like school picture day. But for custom, on-location family candid photos, birth & pregnancy announcements, etc., she doesn’t have too many other competitor websites to worry about.
She does, however, have to compete for SERP space with review websites like Yelp, Thumbtack, The Knot, Manta…the list goes on.
And so the work for Sarah in Ashburnham continues. A number of factors have led to a significant reduction in Sarah’s work load, so this project is progressing slowly. But we never stop churning.
Local SEO for Ashburnham Business
Sarah’s clients and business are almost exclusively within Ashburnham and Westminster. Therefore her online marketing focus has to be on Local SEO. I’ve written before about Local SEO for Real Estate, and the same principles apply here:
- Local expertise
- Local content
- Personal branding
We advised Sarah to establish herself as THE expert in photography around the Ashburnham area. Easier said than done, of course. But the path to local expertise runs through step 2—local content.
This is the key to Local SEO for nearly any industry—you can’t win at Local SEO without local content.
We advised Sarah to publish regularly on photography of and about Ashburnham. Pick sections of the town and area, and take photos in, around, and of those areas. Then compile these photos into topical blog posts: PHOTOS: 7 Hidden Scenes from Downtown Ashburnham, etc. Each with 1,000+ words for optimal keyword density and context, of course ?
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Ashby SEO Projects
A few years ago, we completed a marketing & SEO project for an Ashby, MA business called Erin Shea Dressage.
236 Foster Road
Ashby, MA 01431
Erin Shea is a professional horse rider and trainer in Ashby. She offers her clients dressage training, riding lessons, and horse sales & purchasing, all out of her Ashby home and barn.
Erin asked Mxt Media to provide a web presence that could capture traffic and leads of Central MA-area horse & equine enthusiasts looking for lessons or training.
Every major page and section of Erin’s website features a large, contextually-relevant call to action form. The forms aren’t perfect, but they’re strategically placed to capture user intent at its highest.
In addition, each form is labeled appropriately to reinforce user confidence and to clearly identify and qualify leads once they convert. Each funnel and its form submissions are measured and reported on their own, thanks to the context-sensitive labeling.
Horse training is a lucrative business under the right circumstances. A trainer’s reputation is potentially their most valuable asset. And competition can be fierce.
After all, the market for potential customers is very small, especially in New England.
Those two factors led us to a two-part keyword targeting strategy for this Ashby SEO project—we decided to target users in two distinct user profiles: beginner and expert.
Beginner keywords included common everyday phrases related to the equine industry. Phrases that are not used by professionals, and therefore indicate a lack of knowledge or experience in the industry.
Phrases like “horseback riding” and “horse lessons.”
Industry pros and knowledgeable amateurs don’t use those expressions, opting instead for “western riding,” referring to a type of seat/saddle, and “dressage lessons,” referring to a particular discipline.
Expert keywords included niche and specific phrases like “dressage training” and “hunter jumper re-schooling.” These phrases have very specific, almost esoteric uses and they indicate a high level of expertise in the field.
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Clinton SEO Projects
Our primary Clinton, MA SEO project is a website & technical/mobilegeddon SEO project for an industrial machinery company in Clinton, MA.
19 Parker Street
Clinton, MA 01510
Morris Mechanical is the American small business prototype: family-owned, small-town startup in a hard-working, blue-collar industry.
They came to Mxt Media looking for a new website and a better way to showcase their products and services—you can’t sell it if you can’t get the word out.
Morris had 2 major problems before we were brought in to help: UX and IA. First, the IA stuff:
Morris’ website was mostly homegrown. It had been built in-house by their office staff, none of whom had much experience with web design or development. Most DIY’ers don’t think of keyphrase silos when they’re building their websites and planning their content.
Not their fault. It’s a fairly advanced and specific topic in web marketing. We in the SEO community take it for granted, but nearly 100% of our past clients and consultations have a major a-ha moment when we explain the concept of one phrase/topic per page.
One-page list becomes 4-page silo
You can see from the screenshot above that their Services page was just 15 bullets in 3 different lists.
We separated those lists into service category pages and expanded each bullet point into a sub-heading with at least one photo and paragraph to highlight and explain the topic in further detail. Of course with an obvious call-to-action with each major page & funnel.
Okay, but why?
If you’re not 100% up-t0-date on your advanced SEO knowledge, not to worry. The reason we separated and expanded those lists is simple:
Google wants to identify a winner—an authoritative resource on each topic. Separating these services into their own page makes it easier for each page to focus on ONLY ONE topic. Topic A is not diluted by mentions of Topics B, C, and D.
Lastly, expanding the lists into subheads and paragraphs/photos provides more content and detail—more for Google to sink its teeth into. That makes each page more of an authority resource.
In SEO, more isn’t always better. Better is always better. And more of better is always more betterer!
There’s no shame in it. Most websites are ugly. Ours is no exception in some areas. And Morris’ old website was ugly.
But there’s more to it than ugly. Like SEO/IA concerns above, most website owners don’t know much about user experience.
Companies like User Interface Engineering have had long histories of user experience research and education. And in the last several years, Google has invested more and more in the principles of UX.
The SEO value of UX is simple: what’s good for users is good for Google’s search results. What’s good for Google’s search results is good for SEO.
Bottom line? UX matters for SEO.
The primary UX principles that needed attention for this Clinton, MA business were navigation, mobile responsiveness, and accessibility.
Simplified, consistent navigation menus
Before: one large, button-based nav table with no breadcrumb/active-state indicators.
After: two separate text-based link menus with obvious “you are here” indicative styles.
This project happened before mobilegeddon, but the need for a more mobile-friendly interface was immediate. The before version was built in HTML tables and very difficult to use on handheld devices.
The mobilegeddon algo update says that Morris would have been invisible in mobile searches, which is obviously bad news for SEO. But even for desktop searches, the table-based layout was rigid and inflexible.
Tables, text flattened into static images/graphics, and image-based button navigation are all major DON’Ts for web accessibility. Visitors using screen readers or other assistive technologies may be blocked entirely.
That’s obviously bad news for those visitors—and if you’ve ever talked to a blind person, for example, about what it’s like to use web, you’d be blown away at how terrible their experience can be.
But in pure-SEO terms, accessibility is another UX component and therefore is probably a ranking signal. Better accessibility and better UX means better SEO.
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Gardner SEO Projects
70 City Hall Ave
Gardner, MA 01440
Our primary Gardner, MA SEO project is a website & branding/marketing project for the firefighters’ association in Gardner, MA.
Gardner Firefighters’ Assoc is the official name for the firefighters’ union—Gardner Firefighters IAFF Local 2215.
Gardner Firefighters Local 2215 represents the 32 line officers and firefighters of the Gardner, MA Fire Department. They belong to both the International Association of Fire Fighters and the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts.
Their online marketing efforts were one of our very first projects, back in 2008. Design standards have come a long way since then, but the core principles of effecting search engine exposure and optimization have not: solid user experience, well-formed structure, and useful page content.
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Hadley SEO Projects
Our primary Hadley, MA SEO project is a website & ecommerce solution for a music education company in Hadley, MA.
2 Bargate Lane
Hadley, MA 01035
This is one of my favorite projects of all time. ITC, as they’re known, is a tiny company comprised of internationally-known musical composers, teachers, and arrangers.
These guys are some of the best in the business. Their arrangements are performed by some of the absolute best marching and concert ensembles in the world.
They came to us looking for a whole marketing strategy from scratch. They had an old website under an old brand, but needed a 100% new approach.
We got them set up on ecommerce to sell their musical and educational material, plus some really creative social media automation to help outreach and promotion of their products, services, and events.
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Lancaster SEO Projects
Our primary Lancaster SEO project is a website & social media package for a local coffee shop—nay, coffee cabin—in Lancaster, MA.
We’ve all been to coffee shops. And we’ve all heard of food trucks. But what about a coffee truck?
And what about a coffee truck that looks and acts like a log cabin? And what if that coffee cabin were on a perfect, picturesque New England farm in Lancaster, MA?
If I ever saw a coffee cabin like that, I’d call it Jackson Effie.
We did (and are still doing!) a full-scale marketing strategy plan for the coffee cabin’s owners, Nancy and Nathan Ciara.
We built a website. Consulted on their branding. Worked on slogans, messaging, and signage. We planned and implemented their aggressive local social media campaigns, centered around live video and personal recommendations.
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Lunenburg SEO Projects
Our primary Lunenburg SEO project is a technical SEO plugin development project for an event entertainment company in Lunenburg.
This Lunenburg-based company came to us with the most interesting technical SEO challenge we’ve ever had.
Platinum Productions provides entertainment services all over Central MA and beyond. Namely, DJs, emcees, dancers, lighting, sound production, photo booths—you name it.
They serve primarily the wedding and corporate event spaces—two very competitive markets. In order to target those markets with a local SEO approach, they wanted city-specific landing pages for all their services—no small task with 351 towns in MA and 234 in NH.
We combined some ingenious database work from their existing site with some custom, WordPress-specific shortcode functionality to pump out 500+ pages of localized content and contextual links for each of their service offerings.
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Westminster SEO Projects
Our primary Westminster SEO project is a pro-bono website & social media package for a non-profit organization supporting music in Ashburnham/Westminster regional schools.
This project is near and dear to my heart. It’s a pro-bono project to benefit a middle- and high-school music program in Ashburnham and Westminster, MA.
The program’s goals are unique—unlike any other Central MA small business SEO project we’ve handled. This group focuses on fundraising like many non-profits, but it focuses on recruitment first.
Only 7th-12th grade students in the Ashburnham/Westminster Regional School District are eligible to join, so their recruitment does not come from their online presence.
Instead, the online marketing efforts are aimed at the parents of these students—to recruit them to the parent/support group: your kid is in the band, shouldn’t you support the band? is their angle.
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Worcester SEO Projects
Our primary Worcester SEO project is a pro-bono technical consulting gig for Evolving SEO, the digital marketing empire of Dan Shure.
Hands down, one of the proudest moments in our history was when Dan Shure, a well-known SEO podcaster and Moz Associate, invited me down to his Worcester, MA office to provide technical help with his Evolving SEO website.
Dan had recently shifted to focus much of his time on his still fairly new podcast, Experts on the Wire, and he wanted help showcasing his episodes and expert interviews on his website.
That’s where we came in.
Dan’s knowledge of enterprise-class SEO is well established. He needs no help there (in fact, he has advised us on a number of projects!). But the tech side is one area that we could return the favor and help him out.
We had a minor setback at first, but overall our consultation was a resounding success.
I look forward to working with Dan and many more Worcester SEO clients in the future!