The True Value of a Custom Website (Is It All Just Hype?)

Websites, web design, and coding are essentially all different languages, so it’s no surprise that custom websites can be quite a bit pricier than a template or ‘drag-&-drop’ site. But is it worth it? Is that beautiful, custom-designed website really worth the big bucks? Will it get your more traffic, more customers, and more sales? Or is it all just hype?

Let’s take a look at the data, the research, and the opinions of experts (yes, our expert design, marketing, and SEO teams included) to get to the bottom of the true value of a custom website, and the reasons you should have one (plus, the type of sites that might not actually need one).

Remember, Cheap is Expensive

Nope, you read that right.

Sometimes, choosing that $30 website template and making your own site will end up costing you in the long run. What do we mean?

Customers judge your website graphic

Ouch. If you’re losing out on 94% of your potential customers because your templated drag-&-drop site is a drag-&-don’t, then your bargain website template is actually costing you big-time.

Custom Websites Are More Credible

Having a custom-designed website is a clear indicator that you take your business and your brand seriously. After all, the business world knows that you need to spend money in order to make money, and your website is no different.

Investing time (and money) into your website, brand, business model, and services are what set you apart from all the others in your field. And when you consider that your website is your first impression to many of your potential customers, it makes sense to make sure it’s a great one.

If a website looks poorly made, performs slowly or not at all, or looks the exact same as 50 other sites your customer has already seen, they will question the validity, quality, and credibility of your company, product or service. And in a time where being a thought-leader and showing your expertise and trustworthiness is paramount – you truly cannot afford to lose your credibility and your customers’ trust as soon as they see your site.

Determine the credibility of business graphic

Custom Websites Are Growth-Oriented

Custom websites can grow with you, which is (hopefully) one of the main goals for every business. This means you can add pages, sections, new features, forms, and more without any limitations or template fences holding you back.

Additionally, a custom website can change with your business – even if that change is in a new direction entirely. If you decide to pull away from certain services, and instead rebrand in a new area, you can do that with a simple redesign, or a few additions and cuts.

With a template, you are fixed within the outline that you bought. And that gives you very little wiggle room for the future.

Custom Websites Are SEO-Friendly

First, let us state that if you choose to go the custom website route then you have to make sure it is being optimized and that the designer knows what they are doing. A custom website without SEO is like a beautiful sports car with no gas tank – no one’s ever going to see it.

Custom sites should always be specially designed (optimized) to do better in search engine rankings, which is just another edge you will have over your competition with their cookie-cutter sites and poor optimization. But a custom website doesn’t just mean the user experience (ease of use) or user interface (appearance) is optimized – it also means the speed is, along with a whole slew of other SEO factors.

Expectations of web page load speed

By using a professional web design company like JSL Marketing & Web Design, you can get a fully optimized site that will engage and pull in your ideal customer – and keep them on the site.

Yes, even how long your website visitors stay on your site affects your SEO, by way of CTR or ‘click-through rate’. And do you know what affects your click-through rate? Your design, the ease of the user experience, your site speed, and your content – all of which can be delivered by a full-service SEO and web design agency.

Wow a guest with your marketing business graphic

Custom Websites Are Personalized

Just like it sounds, a custom design allows you to customize everything on your site to exactly how you want it, as well as more accurately target the audience and demographic you are marketing to. The control that a custom website gives in functionality, targeting, and branding, as well as user experience and user interface can make all the difference to your company.

Just look at what a simple Google Search pulls up in images when you search ‘custom website vs template’.

web design template options

Do you see how so many ‘template’ sites are shown with the header, larger text/photo section, and then the tri-section beneath? That’s a 1-1-3 and it looks pretty boring, doesn’t it?

Let’s take a closer look at the picture from Webfries:

Template website design vs. Custom website design graphic from Webfries

Which website would you rather go to? Another 1-1-3 site, or something with a clearly unique design that draws your eye, keeps you interested, and is SEO-friendly too?

We would hope that the choice is clear.

So, Who Doesn’t Need a Custom Website?

Here are a few times where a custom website isn’t necessary:

  • You are just starting out and do not have the money for a custom website
  • You are in an industry with little competition
  • You need your website to be up and ready in a matter of days
  • You want a simple site without design aspects, lead captures, forms, etc.
  • You really like the 1-1-3 style

What About Your Business? Are You One-of-a-Kind or Cookie-Cutter?

If you are interested or even just merely curious about the benefits of a custom-designed website, then get in contact with JSL Marketing & Web Design and see what our brilliant team of designers can come up with to improve or optimize your next website.

How We Started Our Business (And Kept It Growing)

Our company started out like many businesses – we saw an area that we thought we could improve upon and we jumped on it. We didn’t have a crazy new invention or idea – we simply wanted to be the type of Digital Marketing and Web Design Company that we would want to work with if we had a project.

JSL started out small, just my wife and I, then it grew a little bigger, with a designer and an SEO manager, then a Content Creator, then a project manager, another designer, and a coder, etc., etc. But even though we’ve gone from a team of 2 to over 10, that isn’t the kind of growth I want to talk about.

Instead, I want to talk about how you grow a company from a small startup to something truly sustainable in just a few years.

How We Grew Our Company Each & Every Year

KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid)

No, I’m not trying to insult you. But I am letting you in on a secret – a great business doesn’t have to be complex.

JSL Marketing started out simple – be better digital marketers and web designers than the competition.

Now that didn’t mean we had to get all of our clients to the number one spot on Google in 4 weeks, and it didn’t mean we had to offer web designs at the lowest prices – it simply meant we had to be a better company.

And we were.

We listened and took the biggest complaint we heard the most often about other companies, and then we fixed it.

That complaint was about communication, response times, and honesty – so that’s what we tackled.

Yes, we worked hard to use the best strategies, get the best results, and keep our prices fair, but the reason we grew was because we weren’t like the other companies in Dallas or Fort Worth. We answered emails the same day (if not the same hour), we answered questions, and were transparent and honest. We weren’t trying to trick our customers, we wanted to help them.

We did the simplest thing we could possibly do as a new business – we listened and then did what our customers asked us to do. We were a better kind of company.

Do What You Set Out to Do

This coincides with the above point perfectly, and essentially, it just means you need to keep your goal in mind, even when your company changes, the industry changes, or you have to adapt.

This happened with our company early on, as we went from part-time/freelance to a full-blown, first-page-of-Google web design company in a matter of months.

It was fairly easy to reply to emails and give each client the time and explanations they wanted when we only had a handful of them, but what about when we had 15, 20, or 25 clients? We were still just two people.

It would have been easy to start replying to emails less frequently, or to give shorter, less in-depth answers. It would have been easy to brush off some of our smaller clients and give priority to the bigger projects paying the bigger bucks.

But that wasn’t what we set out to do, and that wasn’t what we wanted JSL to become. So, we had a choice. And we decided to hire more people to keep up with the needs of our growing client base.

When the time comes, remember why you started your business and stay true to your values, and your unique ‘why’.

Learn to Delegate

When you make your first hire it can be hard to loosen the reins and let someone else take some responsibility. After all, JSL was the brainchild of Sarah and I, and we had never needed help with it before.

But after you hire someone, you have to learn to delegate – and you have to learn it fast. Because a big part of growing is being able to keep up, and we definitely learned that if we wanted to continue the quality of work and service we had been providing, then we would need more hands on deck (or, on the keyboard).

After our first hire, we had a 50% larger workforce, and an ever-growing workload. So, we began to use programs to help us keep everything straight, to share files and information, and to keep our timelines and tasks on track.

We chose Basecamp, as it allowed us to delegate and assign projects or tasks virtually, something that was incredibly needed as our SEO manager and newest hire was across an ocean and many time zones away.

Oh, and in case you are wondering – yes, we still use Basecamp.

Basecamp Screenshot

Treat Your Clients Like Friends

This doesn’t mean everyone gets the family discount, or even that the ‘customer is always right’ (because they certainly aren’t) but it does mean you should treat your customers fairly, act honestly, and always try to be transparent.

Being in an industry that many do not understand makes it easy to take advantage of those with less knowledge, and that’s one of the many problems we saw in the digital marketing industry when we first started JSL. Dishonest practices, misleading reporting, or even some companies who simply took their client’s money and then never provided any services at all.

You would never treat a friend this way, and that’s the principle our company decided to stand behind.

And, you know what? People noticed.

Referrals, Referrals, & More Referrals

Because our company listened, communicated, and helped our clients instead of taking advantage of them, we quickly gained a reputation for being a ‘friendly, family-styled’ company who offered corporation-sized results.

So, we asked our happy customers for referrals, reviews, testimonials, or to simply talk about us around the watercooler or in their communities and online.

I don’t know if this has been said before, but we think a happy customer is the best advertisement as well as the cheapest. And with each happy customer we had, more came in.

Of course, you will never please all of your customers, but we work hard to try. We even have ‘exit interviews’ for when a client decides to leave us to see what we could have done better, or if there is anything we can do at the end to help the customer feel like they have been treated fairly and gained value from our services.

Are You Looking to Grow Your Business?

If you have a business idea, or are interested in furthering your start-up, then contact me for business strategy or sales coaching, as well as start-up mentorship or speaking engagements. I would love to share more of the JSL story, growth, and approach.

Starting a Startup from Scratch [The 3-Step Startup]

This article isn’t about giving a detailed look at each and every legal and strategic step you need to follow in order to start a small business, because frankly, there are enough of those guides out there (like here or here) and they’ve done a great job.

Instead, this post will look at how my wife and I started JSL Marketing, how we built our team, and how we made it a success – all in three simple steps (with a few sub-steps sprinkled throughout).

Not to oversimplify the process of creating a business or starting a startup, as a lot goes into it, but instead, I want to highlight some of the problematic areas that people often get hung up on, along with common mistakes and how to avoid them.

Just Start | Just Sell Something | Just Jump

Take a note from our beautiful coffee mugs – and just start!

JSL Marketing Just Start Mug

What is your passion, your skill set, or your product idea? You could spend 15 years honing it, or you could go for it now. There are plenty of inspirational quotes out there that tell you in 101 ways to just try, to just keep going, or to just start. But this is actually completely true!

If we had dragged our feet when we finally decided to go from ‘part-time freelance’ to ‘all-in-digital-marketing-firm’ it would have taken us years longer and lost a lot of the momentum we had gained in the industry.

Sometimes it can be scary to jump into something, and I don’t think you should go for an idea that is only half-baked, but you need to understand that if you keep waiting for the stars to align and all the pieces to fall into place, you’ll be sitting on your startup idea until the day you die.

Starting a startup isn’t always smooth sailing, but it does teach you to think on your feet, be flexible, and brave. Sarah and I were brave when we started JSL – and though our company still took a lot of planning, when we felt unsure if we were ready to jump or not, we pulled the trigger and dove headfirst into the business.

Even if you gain nothing else from this post – understand this: your startup has a 0% chance of succeeding if it never starts. No matter what you do, you raise those odds when you do it.

Build Your Team of Wizards

As surprising as this might be to some, you can’t do everything yourself. In fact, you shouldn’t even try. If you want your startup to be a success, you need to work with people who have skills that are different, experiences that are different, and minds that are different.

Take JSL for example, our team consists of a group of creatives who each have unique skills they bring to the table. From ad creation and implementation masters, email marketing and CRM software specialists, digital design and print professionals, SEO and audit experts, all the way to content creation gurus and hard-coding geniuses – we have a team that rivals The Avengers.

Yes, when we started out, it was just Sarah and me, but we quickly had too much work to handle, especially while trying to elevate and grow our business

We needed help.

So, we went out looking for people who were teachable, passionate, ambitious, loyal, honest, and fit with the company culture we wanted to create. We took the hunt seriously and started out on a ‘trial-period’ with each of our new members, but as they grew with the company, as they continued to learn and try new things, we saw that we had created something invaluable – a team of professionals who were truly dedicated to making JSL a success.

JSL Marketing Team Photo in Dallas

We didn’t hire experts from the very beginning, instead, we hired the type of people who were hungry to learn and hone their skills. Those who were passionate about their area or field and wanted to improve it each and every week.

Ultimately, we decided to work with people who wanted to become the best in their field – and wanted their company to be right alongside them.

Market Like Your Business’s Life Depends on It (Because It Probably Does)

Here is something the team at JSL knows about twofold – marketing is king.

How do we know this? Well first, our company is built on the facts (and statistics) that say you need to market yourself (and market yourself well) if you want to succeed in today’s instant-information, online age. And second, we experienced the need for marketing firsthand when we started a Digital Marketing company in Dallas at just about the same time the SEO and Digital Marketing boom hit.

Think of it like this – if you are looking to work with a call center, yet every time you call them you get a busy signal, are you going to trust them with your business? If you go to speak to an architect and their office is in an unfortunate-looking building, are you going to trust them with your build design?

This is exactly the situation that JSL wanted to avoid.

If we were going to try to be the very best web design company in Dallas, then we needed a great website. And if we were going to try to be the best digital marketing company or SEO experts in Dallas, then we had better show up in that number one spot on Google.

So, we worked hard, learning all along the way, and we made it to that top spot.

Though other forms of marketing are still viable and popular, digital marketing is overtaking them all, because no one goes to their phonebook anymore when they need to find a new service, restaurant, or product – instead, we all turn to search engines, our laptops, and our smartphones.

There is no point in daring to create a startup and staffing it with the very best team, just to let it fall through the cracks because no one knows you exist – so, after step 1 & 2, don’t forget to market like your company’s life depends on it.

Need More Tips, Inspiration, or Practical Steps for Your Business or Startup? Check Back Next Week or Contact Me for Sales Coaching, Marketing Analysis & More.

The Videos are Coming, Are You Ready? [Why 2019 is the Year of Video]

Video Marketing (or using videos in your digital and content marketing strategies) has been surging in popularity in recent years, and our team at JSL Marketing knows 2019 will only continue this trend.

That’s one of the reasons we had video shoots in both Dallas and San Diego this Spring (and, of course, because it was fun). We fully expect videos to become an even bigger part of digital marketing in the coming year – and we can’t wait!

Learn Why Video is Taking Over in 2019

The People Want Videos

Every study – and we mean every study – shows that people want video. So, give the people what they want!

Short videos, long videos (within reason), funny videos, emotional videos, educational videos, it doesn’t matter as long as it is a motion picture. And everyone knows it.

Some of the biggest names in digital marketing and SEO education have made it clearly known that videos do better than emails, social images, blogs, or PDF/downloadable content.

HubSpot’s chart below shows the numbers:

Video chart from Hubspot

But if you’re thinking ‘54% isn’t that much’, know this – many predictions place video traffic at up to 80% in 2019. Which means if you aren’t taking videos, posting videos, and keeping up with the trends, you could be missing out on 80% of your audience.

All of the trends, research, and data seems to be saying that video isn’t just a fad, it’s taking over and it’s here to stay.

More Videos, More Conversions

Just like statistics are singing video’s praises when it comes to customer preferences and traffic, research is also coming out that shows that videos convert and pull engagement at much higher rates than email marketing or ‘traditional’ ads.

In fact, according to our good friends at Forbes, 90% of customers say video helps them make decisions on what products to buy and over 60% say that seeing videos makes them more likely to buy. These are crazy numbers!

But the stats don’t end there! Check out these 25 video marketing stats to help boost your confidence and convince your team that you need video in 2019.

Still aren’t sure if videos are here to stay? Look at the types of videos that companies are already pouring their resources into.

Types of video investments bar chart

If all types of companies are already investing in video – especially product videos and demos, they must be paying off. And they are.

Videos create confidence in your product. In many ways, pictures became the new reviews, and now videos are becoming the new pictures.

If you want better conversion rates (like we all do) then give your customers the confidence to buy with a video showing your product or service, or educational content for your audience.

The numbers don’t lie.

More Engagement, More Effective

Yes, video is what your audience wants to see. And yes, video has a higher conversion rate. So, is it surprising that videos also are much more effective at grabbing your customers’ attention and pulling extra engagement from them?

This means that video is not only good for sales, but also for brand awareness, even if you aren’t trying to increase your sales just yet. Brand awareness can increase your audience and their trust in you – and trust is huge, especially with millennials and their buying practices.

societal trust graph from washington post

According to the above Washington Post chart, societal trust is declining, especially in businesses, which means you have to work extra hard to make your brand ‘one of the good ones’ – and video is a great way to do that.

Are You Ready to Take the Leap into Video in 2019?

Want a fun bonus stat? Over 85% of Facebook videos are played without sound – and even our team at JSL is guilty of this.

How does this statistic help you?

It means you either need to have a quick blurb stating your video is ‘better with sound’ before it starts or in the caption. Or you need to optimize it on mute – essentially meaning you need subtitles.

Want more stats and tips from JSL Marketing? Contact us today to get your video marketing strategy rolling!

How Can You Harness the Power of Local SEO? (5 Steps to Local Fame)

At JSL Marketing & Web Design, we specialize in developing and implementing highly effective, growth-based, successful SEO strategies – but those strategies are hardly one-size-fits-all, or one-SEO-strategy-works-for-all.

The truth is, a relatively small change can dramatically alter your strategy. For example, are you looking to corner local keywords or national? If that answer is local, then where do you draw those ‘local’ lines?

A lot more goes into local SEO than you might think, but in true JSL Marketing fashion, we’ve broken it down into five simple steps to lead your business to local SEO fame!

Step One: Do Your Research & Pick a Plum (Local SEO Keyword Selection)

Definition of Local SEO graphic

As stated by our ‘National SEO VS. Local SEO’ blog from last July, local SEO is named rather suitably, as it all has to do with your service area, or location-specific keywords.

This means you need to define not only your location (or service area) but also keywords you want to be targeting in that area. For example, if you are in Dallas, then El Paso keywords won’t help your bottom line very much.

One would think this goes without saying, but, just so we’re clear – if you are a hair salon wedged between Dallas and Fort Worth, then ‘Hair Salon El Paso’ is a very bad keyword to target.

Even if you manage to rank for that particular keyword (which would be exceedingly difficult due to your NAP Data) being on the first page of Google for a keyword that can’t bring you any revenue is kind of like winning a time-consuming, expensive competition that doesn’t award any prize money.

It might be good for your ego, but it doesn’t help your business at all.

Instead of picking random keywords you think will be good and tacking your city name on their backend, research keywords a little more thoroughly with Google’s Keyword Planner, MOZ’s Keyword Explorer, Keyword Tool, SEMRush or similar tools available online.

Step Two: Google My Business is Your New Best Friend

Once you have done the research and found the keywords you want to target (we most highly recommend SEMRush to find which keywords have the highest search volume, lowest competition, and are relevant to you) then you have to use those keywords.

In other words, you won’t skyrocket to the top four spots on Google just because you know which local words or phrases are being searched for – you need to use that knowledge to make yourself show up.

The best way to do this is actually two steps:

Let’s start with Google My Business.

Screen of a phone with Google My Business on it

With 9,605,000,000 (that’s over nine and a half billion) searches for restaurants, hotels, clothing stores, beauty salons, and coffee shops every month, it is imperative that your business is on Google – hence, Google My Business.

Screenshot of number of searches from Google

In order to have your Google My Business be fully functional, helpful, and accurate, we recommend you follow this pattern:

  • Verification – claim your page and go through the verification process
  • NAP – accurately input your Name, Address, and Phone number (use a local number, not 800 number for best results)
  • Categories – choose 4 or 5 categories to accurately represent your business
  • Description – 200-word max, use this space to state your company name, location, main services and end with a CTA (such as your phone number, etc)
  • Hours – this is as important as your NAP data to Google, make sure they are up-to-date and accurate
  • Images – frequently updated images show your customers that you are online, and shows Google that you are open, in-business, and current (keep images between 10KB and 5MB, in-focus, an at least a resolution of 720px x 720px)

Step Three: Optimize (Implement) Your Local Keywords on Your Website

Content is king, meaning you need the content on your website to be in-depth, comprehensive, and helpful. But not all content is created equal, in fact, if you read up on last week’s post (Title Tags, H1, H2, & More) then you know that search engines place the most weight on Title Tags, Meta Descriptions, H1, and H2 Tags (in non-technical terms – webpage names, synopsizes, and headers).

This means you need to place your keywords in the tags mentioned above, but also throughout your webpage copy in a natural way via semantically-related keywords as Google can now tell what a page is about even without the exact keyword showing up 10+ times.

This is thanks to the Rankbrain update mainly, though the culmination of all of Google’s latest updates have been what truly brought the search engine’s comprehension levels to be almost on par with humans.

So, what would Step 3 look like in real life? Let’s go back to the hair salon example to make things clearer.

Your Title Tag (50-60 characters) could be something like:

Luxury Hair Salon in Dallas-Fort Worth | JSL Salon & Styling

Makes sense, right? It gives the location, industry, and name. All the vital details your customers (and Google) would want in one, quick takeaway. And all in just 50-60 characters.

Your Meta Description (100-175 characters) could be:

JSL Salon & Styling offers high-end, luxurious hair, nail, and beauty services in Dallas, Fort Worth, & the surrounding areas! Call us at ___-____ for an appointment today!

This merely tells a little more about featured services and ends with a CTA, or call to action, to lead your guests to the next step – in this case, calling your store.

Your H1 & H2 Tags (the headers on your page) could be:

[H1] Nail Services in Dallas & Fort Worth

[H1] Dallas Nail Salon Services

[H1] Luxury Hair Salon Services in DFW

[H1] Extensions, Cuts, Colors, & More | Dallas, Fort Worth, Arlington

And of course, the content beneath these tags should be comprehensive, true, and helpful to your audience.

Think of the above blog, for instance, are you now more well-versed in keyword research tools, Google My Business, and implementing keywords? We should hope so.

Now scroll back up and look at the section you’ve already read. What do you think is the H1 Tag here? The title of the blog, yes. What are the H2 Tags? The Steps.

Step 4: Get in with the In-Crowd (Local SEO Needs Local Backlinks & Lists)

Backlinks are a way that search engines learn to trust you, or to see your relevance, popularity, and importance in a certain industry or field. This means that backlinks are very important for both national and local SEO.

Screenshot of the definition of a backlink from Google

However, being placed on local lists is important for (you guessed it) local SEO as well, as it gives you a backlink from a site that specializes in your area, and also makes you more available and searchable for your clients.

You can use data management tools like Yext to help you keep track of your business’ location-related data on directories and local lists. Or you can manage your lists manually and join local business directories like Yelp, YellowPages, Yellowbook, The Better Business Bureau, Angieslist, and more. Or industry-specific lists, such as UpCity or Clutch for Marketing Services.

Step 5: Know Your Results, Track Your Results, Get Better Results

JSL Marketing doesn’t just say we specialize in local SEO, we prove it with our analytics and reporting each and every month to our clients.

Every month we use a multitude of tools to send our clients a personalized, accurate picture of how their rankings, traffic, and leads are progressing according to our local SEO strategy.

We personally use SEMRush, Google Data Studio, and a few other tools to create our comprehensive reports in clear, current, and correct ways.

And though we hope these steps are as simple to follow and successful in your local SEO journey as they have been for many of our clients, we are happy to help you along at any stage. Simply give us a call, check out our services, or learn more about us here.

Or, check back on our blog for weekly updates about all things Digital Marketing, SEO, Web Design, and Branding.

We can’t wait to make your business a local superstar.

My Go-To Information Hubs (7 Sources)

If you are wondering why you even need my 7 go-to information hubs for SEO an all things online, then let me tell you a story:

My wife and I started JSL Marketing right about the time that SEO and Digital Marketing really started to take off (as well as become more advanced, particular, and ever-changing).

This presented a unique challenge for us – how could we provide the very best services with the very best results to our customers when the road to those results was constantly under construction or being demoed and re-routed completely?

While getting into a business near the beginning of an industry boom is a great thing, it can also be challenging if you aren’t willing to be a lifetime learner and take that education as seriously as you take your career.

Luckily, we were (and continue to be) excited and passionate about forever learning, forever growing, and keeping up-to-date on the latest algorithms, revisions, and strategies to provide the top results to our clients.

But enough about JSL Marketing, Sarah, and myself – let’s talk about you. And how you can begin your journey to being a lifetime learner too with my top 7 go-to information hubs for SEO, Digital Marketing, and more.


MOZ is a great place to gain information as well as tools for your SEO journey.

And sure, they have paid products and services for SEO, but this isn’t where most of their value lies (in my opinion). Instead, I think the true breadth of their worth is in the MOZ Blog where they have numerous expert writers posting every single day.

Want to learn something new every day? Then add their blog to your morning routine and peruse their newest posts before you start your workday.

Want to learn something specific? Search their articles for specific topics or look through a certain category.

Everything from the very basics of SEO, blogging, branding, technical SEO, and even marketing psychology is available on the MOZ Blog.

Search Engine Journal

As Search Engine Journal says themselves – they focus on Digital Marketing, SEO, Content Marketing, and Paid Search. In addition, their visitors are mainly people like me, with over 35% of their traffic being from Owners, Executives, or C-Levels of companies like JSL Marketing.

search engine journal graphic

And much like their name suggests, they are an information source above all else. They aren’t selling products or tools as much as they are providing information to the people trying to produce and sell products or tools.

And (as you can see) they are good at it.

Search engine journal blog graphic

Yes, that’s right, almost ¾ of their visitors are there to learn, first and foremost. This number includes myself who frequents SEJ often when I want to learn something from top to bottom, and side to side, as they are most known for providing detailed guides, and in-depth articles that go much further than the ones you might find elsewhere on the web.

So, if there is a particular area you want to become an expert in, I recommend adding Search Engine Journal to your favorites, and taking 30-60 minutes a week to go through a guide or a few chapters of an eBook (did I mention they have a library of downloadable eBooks?)

Backlinko (& Their YouTube)

Though Backlinko (by Brian Dean) is technically an education site with courses and trainings for sale, it has a ton of information for free on their blog and it is updated often.

Most of their articles fall into either a ‘step-by-step’ tutorial guide or an analysis of data sets and research that Backlinko has done. So, if research methods and results are your cup of tea, then you will enjoy and benefit from subscribing to Backlinko (as some of their blogs require you to subscribe in order to unlock).

If you are willing to trade your email for a wealth of knowledge and value, I recommend it, as I’ve found many of Brian’s strategies to work well. However, if reading isn’t your favorite – check out the Backlinko YouTube channel which gives you all the information, without any of the eye strain.


HubSpot is both a great software tool as well as a resource for information, as they have a blog, eBook section, research section, and even free courses and certifications in HubSpot Academy.

Granted, my team and I are members of HubSpot, and therefore get a little more than the average user on their site, but even without being a member of paying anything, HubSpot has a huge amount of information, trainings, guides, and more to be discovered.

And unlike many ‘free trainings’, HubSpot Academy’s are actually worth the time it takes to go through them (usually between 1.5 and 4.5 hours).

In fact, every member of our team at JSL Marketing is certified in at least one (most likely many) of their courses, such as Inbound, Content Marketing, Email Marketing, Social Media, and more.


Yext is not only one of the platforms our whole team uses often for our clients, but it also has a great resource center with everything from support to a blog, events to webinars. So even if you are more of the ‘conference learner’ or an auditory learner, you have a place in Yext to gain education and information.

Yext tool graphic

Even just perusing their site can help you learn things you didn’t even know you didn’t know – such as their Knowledge Center which gives you in-depth articles based on certain words you may have never heard of, like NAP Data (Name, Address, Phone Number).

Yext knowledge center graphic


SEMrush all in one marketing graphic

If you’ve ever spoken to me at a conference, in a marketing consultant meeting or a sales coaching session, then you have surely heard me talk about SEMRush. And though my team uses SEMRush’s tools for every client, we also use them as an information source.

SEMRush also has an academy which offers trainings on their tools (toolkit courses), however, you do need to have an account with them in order to take their courses and receive their certifications.

If you are more interested in free, no-strings-attached learning, then check out the SEMRush Blog, Webinars, Podcasts, eBooks, Events, and more (yes, even games).

If learning while driving or even playing sounds like your ideal – then I recommend SEMRush as a great lifetime learning tool.

Neil Patel

Even if he’s last, you knew Neil Patel would be on my list, didn’t you?

Neil Patel is one of the great go-tos for myself and my team, and I find myself sending along his articles or videos quite often to my Content Marketing Manager and SEO Director especially.

This is not only because he is interesting to watch (or read) but because he often gives examples that are more relatable for those already in the field. Though he may sometimes use words and terms that ‘beginners’ in the SEO world won’t know yet, I still encourage new-comers to listen to Neil. One of the great ways to learn is to try to understand something above your head.

In fact, the ‘rabbit-hole’ effect is great on Neil Patel’s site, as I often listen to one video, which will lead me to another which I also find pertinent, and then to an article which goes in depth into another aspect, and so on, and so on.

Luckily, Neil’s site will never turn you in circles, as he has over 1,017 podcasts plus articles and videos – that’s enough for a lifetime a learning

Neil Patel Marketing School Graphic

There You Have It! You Essentially Have Just Seen My Weekly Search History.

Do you want to be a lifetime learner too? Do you want to learn more about Digital Marketing, SEO, Branding, and more?

Contact me to set up a consulting or sales coaching session, or to see what my company can do for your website and rankings.

And stay tuned for next week when I explain the simple 3-Step Startup Plan that JSL Marketing used to skyrocket to the forefront of the SEO industry in Dallas.

Title Tags, H1, H2 & More! [What They Are & Why You Should Care]

We’ve been over the many ranking factors for SEO numerous times, so maybe you’ve heard us mentioning ‘Title Tags’ or ‘H1’ and ‘H2’ tags. But what are these? How do you utilize them? And why are they so important, anyway?

Never fear, the SEO wizards of JSL Marketing are here to answer all your queries and make complete sense of all the different ‘tags’ you need to work with on your site.

But first, let’s start with the basics.

What Are All These Tags & How Do They Help Improve My SEO?

Title Tags

As stated by the SEO education giant MOZ, a Title Tag tells Google (and your readers) the title of the webpage. The Title Tag is shown on SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) as the ‘name’ or ‘title’ of the page you are about to click on.

In easier terms – the title tag is the blue section you click on from Google’s first page when you want to visit the site.

In visual terms – here’s an example of something our JSL team likes to search quite often:

Google Search for best tacos

As you can see, the blue words (or purple if you’ve already visited the page, like I have) is clickable and will lead you to the Dallas Eater article ‘Tacos in Dallas: Where to Find the City’s Best’.

Those blue/purple words are also the Title Tag.

Now that we have the definition all sorted out and understood, let’s talk about how a Title Tag can help (or hurt) your SEO efforts.

The title tag has to be both accurate (or indicative of the page’s content) but also short and sweet – after all, Google only shows between 50-60 letters in your Title Tag.

Title Tag Blog Graphic

If the title tag is short, sweet, and informative of what the page holds, then it will have a lower bounce rate for your readers, because they will know what the page contains due to the accuracy of the title.

However, if your Title Tag is over 60 characters, it will get cut off. And if it is not true to the subject of the page or doesn’t give the user what they are looking for, it will have a higher bounce rate, which will cause Google to lower it in the search results.

Essentially, there is no tricking Google by stuffing in a bunch of similar keywords anymore, because Google is watching and learning what it’s users like thanks to Rankbrain.

So, you better have a Title Tag that lets your human readers know exactly what they’re clicking on, and make sure its short enough for it to fully show.

A common format that many sites use is – “Main keyword | Related Keyword | Company”.

Or something like “Title Tags, H1, & H2 Guide | On-Page SEO | JSL Marketing” which is only 56 characters, includes the subject, additional keyword support, and our brand/company name.

Bonus information for anyone wondering what a ‘bounce rate’ is:

bounce rate definition graphic

Thanks for the nifty bounce rate definition, Google

H1 Tags & H2 Tags

Now, a Title Tag is easy to understand because of its name, but so are H1, H2 (and even H3-6), you just have to know what the H is for.

In this case, that H stands for ‘Header’. So, an H1 Tag is your Header 1 Tag. This means the H1 tag of this titillating article you are reading through right now is:

H1 tag screenshot

And yes, that means the H2 (Header 2) Tag for this post is:

H2 tag screenshot

Want to take a crack at the H3 Tags for this article?

H3 tag screenshot

In reality, Title Tags are just page titles, and H1 or H2 Tags are just headers – but then why are these so important?

Because Google wants to know what you are talking about, how organized you are, and how thorough you are. And so do your human readers

It is a lot easier for anyone (living or machine) to understand an article or blog post that is well laid out and has an intuitive structure, than to read something that is just one big block of text without anything breaking it up or separating it.

Let’s say you only wanted to learn about Title Tags today, because my Title Tag, H1, H2, and even H3 mention Title Tags, Google knows to show this article to you. Then, once you open the article, you can quickly find the section pertaining to what you want to know as well, instead of wading through paragraphs on the other tags you have no interest in.

This is why having your keywords, or similar (semantically related) keywords in your Title, H1, H2, and H3 tags is extremely important.

Most sites have these headers already set up, which is why I simply write [H1], [H2], [H3], as I write, and then switch those sections to their true ‘header’ formats on the backend of our blog page as I upload each article.

However, some platforms still require you to type it out HTML style, which would look like this:


<h1>Title Tags, H1, H2 & More! [What They Are & Why You Should Care]</h1>

<h2>What Are All These Tags & How Do They Help Improve My SEO?</h2>

<h3>Title Tags</h3> and <h3>H1 Tags & H2 Tags</h3>


Regardless of if you have to put your headers in by hand using the <h1> ___ </h1> format or if your platform does it for you, remember that these tags are for clarity, for organization, and for efficiency.

Tags are your friends, not foes.

Want Someone to Take All the Guesswork Out of Your Content Creation? Get in Touch with JSL Today!

JSL and our marketing team love learning the new updates, tweaking our best practices, and finding the perfect content to engage your audience and educate your readers. So, whether you need help with your website’s copy, content creation plans for the year, or just a monthly blog or two – we’ve got you covered.

Give us a call today to learn more about our prices, packages, or create a custom package to get exactly what you need, nothing more and nothing less.

Check back next week to learn about local SEO and the steps you should be taking for your business!

How We Made a Fun (Yet Efficient) Company Culture

JSL Marketing Team members smiling enjoying fun company culture 2

As the CEO of JSL Marketing, the questions I get asked most often are usually along the lines of:

  • How do you manage your remote team when they are spread across the US?
  • How do you keep your team motivated across time zones and state lines?
  • How can you create a company culture when you aren’t even together most days?

And though I’ve seen lots of articles on ‘how to stay organized online’ or ‘management and productivity tips for remote work’ (in fact, JSL has written on these very topics in the past), you almost never see articles about remote-work and company culture, just company control.

And yet, if you ask any of the JSL Marketing team what it’s like to work for us, they’ll relay to you a very specific (and very fun) company culture – all while still growing, becoming more efficient, and more profitable.

How can that be? How can we be remote, have a company culture that is fun, but still work hard and provide our clients with superior service?

It’s not as hard as you might think, in fact, I bet I can sum it up into three easily digestible tips.

3 tips for good company culture graphic

Recognize That Your Team is Comprised of Real People

This is easily said, more difficultly done – but almost impossible to do well and consistently unless your team is willing to be honest with you.

Why is their honesty a large part of treating them like real people and not workhorses? Because you need your team to feel comfortable telling you when something is beyond their skill level, their available time, or their available energy.

And because everyone is different, everyone has different stress points and thresholds. You cannot guess at where someone’s cutoff is – they need to communicate it. And this can only be done if you’ve encouraged your team (hopefully, from the very beginning) to be open and honest with you.

JSL started out small and grew very quickly, this means many of our team have been here since the beginning and have had to learn at a very fast rate. And I would be lying if I said it was never stressful for myself, Sarah, and our team, but realizing that your team members have other important factors in their lives besides work is a great way to remind yourself to view them first as people, and second as workers.

One way in which we do this is by asking about life-events as well as work-events during our weekly team meetings. Just this past week we had two different team members viewing homes (which is both time-consuming and stressful). Another team member is going on a short trip, while two others are doing a 24-hour road trip to Canada. Previously, one of our team members was in the middle of her graduate school exams, and another was in the middle of a cross-country move.

These events are ‘human things’ not ‘employee things’ but we still recognize them, talk about them, and plan for them in our meetings. And this is just one small way we recognize our team as people first, workers second.

Incentivize, Reward, & Treat Your Team

This can easily go with the above point, as incentivizing, rewarding or treating your team is important no matter your company culture, but I thought it deserved its own spot because of the reasoning behind it.

It actually can be broken down into a separate category for each word used: incentivize, reward, and treat.

Incentivize Your Team

I think incentivizing your team is integral because it shows that your success is their success. This means they have some ‘skin in the game’ so to speak, or, more aptly, it shows them that they are a part of this company and that their work directly matters in either growing or slowing the company.

This can also get them excited about work. After all, ‘perks make the place’, right?

Reward Your Team

No, I’m not being redundant, because a reward is different from an incentive.

An incentive is told beforehand, to motivate your team into working extra hard or trying new things. A reward is given after something great has been done.

Recognizing and rewarding your team when they do something great is a way to show you appreciate them, you notice them, and that their hard work is never going unnoticed.

In many ways, a paycheck is an incentive, but a reward is that bonus they didn’t know about. A reward is a surprise given to let your team know you notice, you care, and you’re happy with them.

Treat Your Team

Finally, treating your team is different from both incentivizing and rewarding – as both are in regard to their work. However, treating your team has nothing to do with work, it has to do with simply showing your appreciation for them, and the value you see in them ‘just because’.

An example of this could be company lunches or dinners or trips, or even company ‘swag’ which is what JSL is currently creating and distributing to our team.

Something as extravagant as a nice team dinner out, or a company box to watch FC Dallas win, or as little as a JSL tank top, pen and notebook, or some tacos on our lunch break can make all the world to your team.

In fact, the treats our JSL team regularly receive might very well be one of the largest factors in the ‘fun’ aspect of our company culture, and the incentives and rewards the largest factors in our efficiency during peak times.

Mix Business & Pleasure

As you might have noticed by reading how we view our team (and understand that life exists outside of work) and how we incentivize, reward, and treat them (in fun ways, also outside of work), we often mix work and fun.

This means even in our meetings, we’ll joke a bit, talk about life a bit, and ask for opinions on everything from our next eBook to the tagline on our company t-shirts and tank tops.

Of course, a mix of work and fun doesn’t mean all fun. So much of creating a successful business is finding that delicate balance between fun and work, life and business, and employees and friends.

Luckily, we’ve got a great team who can laugh about me eating alone (and getting caught on tape by our videographer in Klyde Warren Park) one minute, and then immediately jump into talking about their projects, deadlines, and proposals the next minute.

They can also tell me when they are having a heavy week, a light week, a stressful week, or when they want to try or learn something new.

Again, I truly think it all comes back to acknowledging that your team members are people, not just workers.

Company Culture Doesn’t Have to Be Rocket Science, You Just Have to Encourage Your Employees to Work Hard & Not Be Afraid to Have Some Fun, Too

Want to be a lifetime learner like me? Check back next week to learn my 7 go-to information hubs for all things digital marketing, SEO, web design and more.