Ideal Avatar Off the Ladder SEO Social Media Website Design

How Your Worst Customer Can Turn Out To Be Your Best

It was around 9:30 AM and I was on my way to one of the two siding projects I had going. I wanted to stop at the nearby convenience store/gas station to get myself a Yoo-hoo (love that stuff!). As I am pulling up, what do I see parked in front of the store? One of my trucks, and, to make matters worse, my entire crew were sitting on the bed door laughing it up and smoking cigarettes.

Old Nokia PhoneJust at that moment my phone rings (yes, my phone looked just like that – it was the 90’s!). It’s the customer (let’s call him Mr. Smith) from the home my crew is supposed to be at right now.

This is not gonna be good, I thought to myself.

“Mike what the hell is going on?! Where the hell is your crew?! They up and left me high and dry. They left my house without telling me what was going on and THEY LEFT THE DAMN RADIO BLARING!

“Mr. Smith – I uhh, I’m not sure…” I said fumbling for words.

“NOT SURE OF WHAT MIKE?! I trusted you with my money and my home and this is how I get treated? I could’ve went with Triple A. They were twenty bucks a square cheaper but I went with you instead because Larry [A great customer who talked about me all the time] recommended you. WHAT THE F*** IS GOING ON MIKE?!”

“Mr. Smith I am about to talk to me crew now and find out what happened. Can I get right back to you?”

“Five minutes Mike or I’m throwing all your crap in the street!”

That was pleasant.

I was a bit wary of Mr. Smith from the beginning. To this day, whenever I see the movie Monster House (if you haven’t seen it you should!), Horace Nebbercracker reminds me a lot of Mr. Smith.

A landscaper friend of mine had done work for him and told me the guy was a bit nuts (red flag 1). I also had to lower my price for the guy even though I came highly recommended by Larry (red flag 2). Plus, during the proposal meeting, Mr. Smith felt the need to control the conversation and to repeatedly tell me that he has a lot of influence in the neighborhood and the job “…better come out right” or he would be sure no one else around here would sign with me (red flag 3).

I wasn’t sure if he was serious or playing around – he was serious.

Anyway, back to the guys…

“Frankie what the hell are you guys doing here? I just got reamed a new one by Mr. Smith – he’s not a happy camper.”

“Boss we had to use the bathroom and instead of letting these guys take the truck one at a time I figured I would get to a good stopping point and we’d all come together.”

“WHAT?! Why didn’t you ask Mr. Smith? What the hell Frankie – I thought I could trust you to run this crew.”

“Boss, we asked him. He said no. He didn’t want us in his house making a mess. He wanted us to go out behind the fence and pee.”

Alright, this guy was crazy. I knew it at the onset but I needed the cash and the guys needed the work. I rationalized that it was just me being super critical of the guy and it would all workout. Gotta sign ’em while they’re hot, right?

The whole job got worse from there.

Mr. Smith proved himself to be the worst home improvement customer I’d ever had. At the beginning of the job he refused delivery of material because “…I don’t want that crap sitting in my yard for a whole day. What if you don’t show up tomorrow?” He was constantly rude and belittling to me and my crew. He wouldn’t let us use the bathroom. He wouldn’t even let us sit in the shade on his deck to eat lunch. The man was impossible.

I saw it coming and I took the job anyway.

The best part… at the end of the job he forced me to give him a $500 additional discount because he felt the color sample was misleading and the siding was ‘darker’ than the sample led him to believe.

I know what you’re saying – you wouldn’t have given it to him. You would’ve fought him on that. Let me tell you it was the best $500 I ever spent! This guy was a nightmare and I never wanted to speak to him again.

Believe it or not, I had to go back about a month later because he found a small 3 or 4 inch piece of J-channel in his bushes and I had to clean his property. Another story for another time.

I Learned My Lesson

Mr. Smith became my best customer to date because of the valuable lesson he taught me. A lesson I carry forward into every business I’m involved with. He is my cautionary tale and to me his lesson is invaluable.

In all the work I’ve done with contractors since I got into website development over ten years ago, I’ve heard the same story from every one of them. They hate some of their customers and wish they didn’t have to work for them but they needed the money. I always answer with this same anecdote about Mr. Smith and my experiences.

They inevitably ask what I did to solve the problem moving forward.

I tell them the same thing I would tell you now. I never again went against my gut. If I didn’t get a warm and fuzzy from the beginning I wouldn’t do work for people. I also learned I needed to change my sales process. I needed to put systems in place to avoid these types of customers. I needed to build an Ideal Avatar.

Download the 6 Secrets to Building Your Ideal Avatar here..

What are you doing to avoid these types of customers?

Do you have systems in place for your sales process or do you ‘sign em while they’re hot’?

What Can I Do Right Now?

One of the things that worked well for me immediately, and something you can do right now, is to list out the attributes of the worst customers you ever had. If you recognize any of those attributes in one of your prospects simply walk away.

Will it cost you a few projects and maybe some money at the beginning? Maybe. But you’ll never again have a Mr. Smith in your life who will cost you money in lost production, discounts, personal time and, worse of all, your sanity.

I know this sounds a lot like ‘work’. It is. But, it’s the kind of work that can save you time, money, headaches and just a little bit of sanity. Your company will benefit by not having to deal with ‘bad’ customers. Your bottom line will improve and, more importantly, your mental health will be much better.

A master at marketing and sales that I follow said it best, “There is no such thing as a bad customer. A bad customer for you may be a great customer for someone else. You just have a bad process to acquire them.”

I gotta tell you though, my father said it even better. He told me when I started my first business at 17 years old. He said “Michael, sometimes the best jobs you will ever do are the ones you walk away from.” I’ll tell you what, this golden nugget is something that has stuck with me even 38 years later.

Back then there was not much we could do to pre-qualify people except go with your gut. The great thing is that nowadays our websites and digital marketing campaigns can help with this problem from the onset. We can build marketing systems that qualify customers at every touchpoint and, in the end, produce highly qualified leads of people you want to work with – your gut has to do the rest.

Home Improvement Ideal AvatarIf you’d like some help avoiding the Mr. Smiths of your life creating an Ideal Avatar or customer persona is the at the very core of any well functioning website. A website design firm specializing in contractors can help you with that (a shameless plug for you to use my services).

Until you get serious about this and contact someone who can help, you’ll have to trust your gut.

Download the 6 Secrets to Building Your Ideal Avatar here..

Ideal Avatar Off the Ladder SEO Social Media Website Design

How The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and CNBC’s The Profit are a Lesson in Knowing Your Audience

[UPDATE: September 08, 2020: I was reading through some old blog posts from a website I may or may not retire,, and found this gem I wrote about 18 months ago.

This particular blog stood out because I am going through some introspection on how I am presenting Digital Marketing in 60 Seconds or Less and who I am trying to attract (it’s amazing how things just seem to work out) and the subject matter here was a great reminder to take a step back and start from the beginning. I hope it helps you as well.]

How The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and CNBC’s The Profit are a Lesson in Knowing Your Audience

I’m watching one of my favorite shows, The Profit. Marcus is trying to help two guys who had a line of fishing apparel. One of them is also a radio DJ and Marcus found the man offensive. In truth, I do as well but I think Marcus is being a bit harsh as he sometimes is.

Marcus ended up walking away from the deal (I doubt they survived) and they continued the show with him visiting one of his past success stories. By the way, a great representation of working with people you like as I discussed in an earlier blog.

Anyway, what the heck do the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have to do with The Profit? Good question.

As I was blissfully getting lost and trying to turn the day off in my brain while watching the show I didn’t even notice the commercials. It’s amazing how you can switch things off so easily while decompressing. One commercial however caught my attention.

They played a Nickelodeon commercial for the newest installment of the TMNT series.

Why did this catch my attention?

Michelangelo - Stafford TechnologiesAlthough I love me some Michelangelo swinging a nunchaku and a good “COWABUNGA!” every once in a while, the commercial caught me off guard.

I was watching on-demand (by the way, one of the best human inventions since sliced bread) and this meant that a media buyer out there somewhere thought a commercial for Nickelodeon’s new TMNT would resonate with the ADULT audience watching an entrepreneurial centric show.

Now, I’m no Einstein, but I’m pretty sure the audience for both of these shows are on opposite sides of any spectrum. I know there is the occasional crossover, an audience member of The Profit, me included, that may watch an episode or two of TMNT, but that is purely for nostalgic reasons and, I would venture to say, rare.

After all, I don’t plan my viewing schedule around TMNT anymore.

To my point.

If you don’t know your audience and you don’t know where to find them, you’re wasting your time and your money.

Knowing your audience is the basic component of any marketing plan, campaign or website. If you don’t know who your audience is, how can you know what problems they are trying to solve and how to create website content that resonates with them?

I can tell you from experience, this is a huge problem in the home improvement market. There is money being wasted hand over fist on a daily basis. The shame of it is, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Do you know your audience?

Do you know who your ideal customer is?

If your answer to both of these questions is something like “I’ll sell to anyone with a heartbeat, a home and a checkbook” you are like 75% of the home improvement contractors out there. And, like them, you’re wasting money too.

Figuring out who your audience or your Ideal Avatar is, isn’t hard. All it takes is some understanding of your market, a little bit of insight into your past clients and a little bit of introspection.

Stop running with the herd. Stop wasting your hard earned cash. Be in the 25% of home improvement contractors who get a pretty good return from their marketing.

Analyze Your Data to Determine Target Audience - Stafford Technologies Marketing for Contractors

Well, I have to get back to watching my show. In the meantime, do some thinking about your ideal avatar. Maybe you can start swinging a focused and targeted nunchaku at your market instead of a shotgun filled with pellets and get yourself some COWABUNGA’s.

Off the Ladder Website Design

3 Simple Steps to Get More Conversions From Your Website’s Homepage

“Your homepage is for branded searches and business cards.”

I said that the other day in our blog about why you shouldn’t try to rank on Google for your website’s homepage. I further said “It’s job is to direct them to the right place where they will find the answer to their problem or question.” Here are three simple steps to help your homepage do its job.

Avoid Clutter

One of the biggest conversion killers on a homepage is clutter. There’s just too much information on the page because most people are trying to rank their homepage in Google search results. Finding the solution to your problem is like trying to find Waldo and his walking stick. People just don’t want to burn through that many calories to find out if you can help them.

Clutter on Your Website's Homepage - Stafford Technologies

Now that we know this tactic is not a good one we can get rid of the clutter. Here’s how:

Leave the navigation out of the header.

I know this is counterintuitive to everything you think you know about website design but it’s true. Navigation in the header causes an interruption to the Z pattern scanning of a website our brains naturally do to help us survive and thrive. It draws visitors away from your call to action and causes squirrel moments where the potential customer may never see your message before abandoning your website.

Highlight important messages.

Embolden or italicize words in the text or use headers to help people scan through your website’s homepage and see the important messages you want to send.

Use images.

Use images that portray success with your product or service or happy people doing happy things. The old adage “A picture is worth a thousand words” is true. Images help people picture themselves using your product or service. Use this to your advantage and use bright images to highlight your messaging.

Use short, easy to read sentences.

Use freshman in high school level vocabulary with short, easy to read sentences. Your content will have a better chance of being read. Large blocks of complicated text are difficult to write, difficult to read and, more importantly, difficult for your readers brain to scan. Make reading your website an easy task and stop asking your readers to burn unnecessary calories.

Call to action

Your call to action buttons are the most important thing on your website. DON’T HIDE THEM! The only outcome you’re looking for is for people to contact you and hire you or buy your product.

Make bold statements.

Don’t use wishy washy (I’d love to know where that came from…LOL!) statements like “Learn More” or “Find out More”. That’s too much work. Give people an action to take. Use bold statements like “Schedule a Call” or “Start Today”.

Make your call to action standout.

Like the language you use, the button itself should stand out. I’m not saying to use neon green, flashing buttons but be sure your buttons stand out from the rest of the content. Use contrasting colors and bold text. You should also use an arrow or caret to ‘show the way’ forward.

Give them a plan.

Most people are like the Russians, they don’t take a dump without a plan. Provide people with a plan and show them how to work with you.

Give them 3 steps.

People like plans but they like really easy plans better. Don’t complicate this. Give them the 30,000 foot overview of how to work with you. Make the language simple and unintimidating. Below is an example from our website’s homepage:

3 easy steps to work with Stafford Technologies on your website.

Show them how ‘easy’ is is to work with you.

Remove obstacles and objections by showing potential customers how easy your process is. Use light language and avoid words like ‘work’. Give people an easy path to follow and they’ll follow it.

Using these three steps you’ll make your website easier to read, you’ll give people a clearly defined and easy plan and you’ll show them how to get started.

Easy Peasy!

These are just 3 simple steps to get more conversions from your website’s homepage. There is more to do but. if you start with these three, you’ll be well on your way to homepage success.


Off the Ladder Website Design

How to Optimize Your Website for Z Pattern Scanning

How to Optimize Your Website for Z Pattern Scanning

We’re busy. It’s just a fact of modern life. We have things to do and people to see and we don’t have time to waste on a website that isn’t going to solve our problem. That’s alright… we have a built in mechanism that protects our time. It’s called scanning.

No, not the kind of scan Kirk would order from Spock to see if there were any dangerous life forms in the Omicron Delta region so they can take a much needed shore leave but, close.

Why do people scan our websites?

Our brains are hard-wired to thrive and survive. Our brains do anything they can to help us and scanning is part of the survival mechanism.

Time is incredibly valuable to us and we protect it like we would protect water in a desert. This is why the brain automatically kicks into scan mode when we are presented with a new website. We scan it first to get the okay from our brain to spend our valuable time reading the rest.

How do people scan websites?

Different parts of your website are scanned in different ways. The hero section or top of your website is scanned in a ‘z’ pattern. The main content of your website may be scanned in an ‘f’ pattern depending on how you have the content setup.

Today we’ll explore the hero section since this is the first thing people see and is the determining factor in whether or not they continue through the rest of your website.

How do I optimize for Z pattern scanning?

When someone visits your website their eyes scan the page from top left to top right, then down diagonally to the bottom left corner, then from bottom left to bottom right. You can see this in the graphic below.

How people scan the hero section of your website - Stafford Technologies

This is why the information ‘above the fold‘ is so critical. We want to be sure website users get a chance to scan all the important information. This will allow them to make a better informed decision as to whether or not the information they will receive on the rest of the website is worth spending their time reading.

This decision is made in a split second so optimizing each part of the Z pattern is critical to your website’s success.

Let’s take a look at our main page as an example and take you through the importance of each part of the Z.

How people scan the hero section of your website - Stafford Technologies

Top left:

The first thing people see. We want to be sure we are telling them who we are and, if possible, use a tagline to let them know what we do. If you don’t have a tagline that’s okay. We’ll let them know what we do later on as well.

Scan to the right:

DO NOT CLUTTER! This area should be clean and simple, don’t clutter it with navigation. Navigation is confusing and a hurdle to scanning. It interrupts our brains natural desire to help us survive by scanning. Besides, you’ve spent a lot of time creating a beautiful web page, why would you want to send people somewhere else before they’ve had a chance to read it?

Top right:

Call to action. Give people a chance to contact you right away. If they’ve done a branded search or they typed your URL directly into the web browser, this is probably what they want to do anyway. We’ve shown them their in the right place with our top left logo now we need to tell them how they can get started doing business with us.

Down and to the left:

This is the most important part of this pattern. This is where you want to tell people what you do, how you do it, who you do it for and how to get started. The catch. You have to do it quickly and in the simplest easy to remember way you can.

What to include in the hero section of your website - Stafford Technologies

You can see from the example in our website hero’s center, we take the user through each step in short, easy to read and easy to remember language. If possible, show someone enjoying your product or service or what success looks like after using it. It’s hard for us to do that so we show a happy guy who represents our target audience pointing to our content. By pointing, he’s telling the user to take action and they can be happy just like him.

Back to the right:

Now that we are at the bottom of the screen we will go back to the right. This is a great place to show the benefits or the value you provide. You want the last thing users see before making the decision to continue to be positive and focused on the value they will receive if they continue and use your product or service.

What can I do now?

You should rework the hero section of your website to optimize it for Z pattern scanning. It’s not that difficult when you follow the formula. Write ad copy focused on the customer, keep it clean and eliminate the navigation, leave them with the value they will receive.


Off the Ladder Website Design

Why You Shouldn’t Rank For Your Homepage

People come to me all the time, excitement radiating from their faces like sunbeams, to tell me they have their homepage ranked number one in Google.

Now imagine the shock when I tell them they’re doing it wrong.

Their next sentence is always accented by their bewilderment and exasperation… “What do you mean?”

Two reasons you shouldn’t rank for your homepage

There are several reasons not to rank for your homepage including wasted time, money and effort but I’ll give you two that we see all the time that you can take immediate action on.

1. Give the people what they want!

There is nothing worse than doing a search on Google and finding exactly what you’re looking for only to find out when you get to the website you have to do more digging to find it.

Here’s an example:

Give the people what they want!

If I’m planning a July 4th barbeque with dozens of my friends and neighbors I want my deck to look great. The problem is my deck was built about the same time my house was built and it looks it. I can’t even go out there without shoes for fear of getting a splinter from the chewed up flooring.

I get on Google and I search for ‘deck builders’.

One would assume that I’m looking for a deck builder and one would be correct, I am. I want to land on a page that focuses on deck building. I want to see pretty pictures of beautiful decks with someone barbecuing delicious looking burgers and chicken wings while a group of  people are mulling around in their little clicks laughing and generally enjoying the heck out of their day.

I want to find a company that is going to solve my problem of needing a deck before July 4th so I can have my barbeque without the side of splinters.

Why the heck am I landing on a page that talks about roofing and siding, windows and doors, basement remodels, gutter installation, concrete pads and, in the bottom right corner of the page, decks? The word is placed over a small picture of a deck (the same picture I saw on 4 other websites), and it’s in all caps and bold type – I guess they want me to know they are deck experts, right?

This is the problem with ranking your homepage for search terms. Unless you do one thing well and only one thing it is confusing for the person searching and finding your website. They will get confused and abandon your website or they will get lazy and not want to do the work finding your tiny image of a deck in the bottom right corner and they will abandon your website.

Either way, GREAT job on ranking your homepage for the ‘deck builder’ search termyou’ve just lost a customer.

P.S. If you are an expert at one thing and want a conversion focused website, you’d be a perfect fit for our Showcase Website program…  Just sayin’ :-)!

2. Keyword Cannibalization

That sounds bad!

It is…kinda. But not in the human being on a spit kind of bad. It’s the ‘I’m losing customers but my homepage is number one‘ kind of bad.

Keyword cannibalization is when you optimize several different pages, blog posts or articles for the same search term. You end up cannibalizing your chances to rank for either page and compete with yourself needlessly.

Sometimes you can’t help this. You write posts about topics you’re an expert in and naturally your subject matter is similar so you may have some overlap in the search terms you use to optimize each. It happens all the time and it happens to us too.

However, purposefully using the same search term on your homepage as you do on your inside service page and then actively trying to optimize them for Google rankings is a mistake.

Google can’t tell which page it should return to the user searching for ‘deck builder’ so Google will probably rank both pages lower.

To see if you are cannibalizing search terms I have a quick trick for you. Open a Google browser and type in site:(your website address) and a search term. You’ll see all the pages on your website ranking for that search term.

EX: websites 

Homepages are for branded searches and business cards

Your homepage will be found. It will be found by the people you send there or by the people who search your company name. It’s job is to direct them to the right place where they will find the answer to their problem or question.

Make your homepage simple. make it a converting engine for the rest of your website. No, it probably won’t rank well and that’s a good thing. If you stop worrying about where it ranks you’ll start worrying about how it can help your visitors become paying customers.

How people search for your website - Stafford Technologies

Off the Ladder Website Design

How To Get Rid Of Website Shame

Website shame is a real thing. You’ve experienced it yourself or you may be experiencing it now. You’re not alone. Most small businesses go through it at some point, including our own.

What’s website shame? Have you been handed a card with a scratched out website? Have you ever been handed a card by a business owner who tells you to give them a call “…but don’t look at my website. The information is wrong.” or, “…don’t look at my website, the pictures haven’t been updated in ten years!

That’s website shame.

When we decide we want people to avoid our website.

Why is website shame a problem?

Most small business owners build their businesses on word of mouth. In simpler times, we built our businesses on our good reputation. That’s all that was needed. A good deck guy or lawn care provider could flourish by *word of mouth alone and their marketing budget consisted of a stack of business cards. That’s no longer the case.

*We explored this topic in an earlier blog about referrals

Getting Rid of Website Shame - Stafford TechnologiesToday’s world is much more complicated. People are much more suspicious and have enough computing power in their hands to land Apollo 11 on the moon. They can easily investigate you and your company within minutes. This is why having a poorly built, poorly written and aesthetically outdated website will have a negative effect on your business.

In addition, you have no idea how many word of mouth customers you’re losing because of this. There’s no way to measure this. There’s also no way to measure the effects of it for the long term.

Look at it this way. If each customer you gain and do a great job for will account for 5 or 6 future customers because of their recommendations, how many of those additional customers have you lost? How can we measure that? The answer is we can’t.

What we can do is ensure we have a great website in place to convert as many potential word of mouth customers as possible and stop losing to our competition.

How can I get rid of my website shame?

Well that’s a loaded question, isn’t it?

There are a three ways to get rid of your website shame. You can ignore it. You can do it yourself. You can hire someone to take care of it for you.

Ignore it

For some people this is a legitimate answer. Some say they’re too busy and there is no value in spending the time to take care of it. Others are at the end of their career and don’t need to worry about it.

You’re never too busy. What if you were busier? What if your calendar was so booked that people were fighting to get on it? What if your calendar was so booked that people were fighting to get on it and willing to pay anything you asked for the privilege?

Unless you’re in the ‘ready to retire’ group ignoring it is a poor decision.

Do it yourself

Why are you reading this? How has DIY worked out for you so far? Isn’t DIY what got most of you here in the first place?

Look, this isn’t rocket science but there is an art to it. If you have the time to grow your business and learn the website development and coding, SEO, digital marketing, content writing and the website design business, I want one of those little clear pills you got from Bradley Cooper too.

Business owners trying to learn website development - Limitless movie presented by Relativity Media

The truth is, you’re too busy to do this and do it well. Your company’s future depends on this. Why wouldn’t you want it to be the best it can be?

Hire a Website Design Agency

If you want this done professionally, expeditiously and correctly you’re going to have to hire someone to do it. The website design agency you choose should have the tools and the skills to create an aesthetically pleasing website but also have the ability to write content that will convert word of mouth referrals to paying customers.

Maybe you’re reading this because you’ve had a company that can create beautiful websites working for you. The designs they showed you while courting your business were beautiful. In fact, your website looks great but no one is buying from you. The problem is, no one has ever bought anything because a website looked good. Ever.

It’s the content that sells not the look. If your chosen website design agency are just designers then you’re not getting the full package. Look for companies that can handle all three components: website design, website content, and website development.

Alright, alright. You knew the shameless plug was coming…!

I happen to know of a company that can handle all three aspects of creating a website.

Hold on… I’m trying to find their card on my desk.
Under my post-it tray…no.
Under my desk blotter…no.
AHA! top draw…no.

I’ll have to go by memory…I think the name of the company is Stafford Technologies.

Kidding aside, if you want a website that tells people what problem you solve, who you solve it for and how you solve it, give us a call at (540) 699-3286.

Off the Ladder Social Media

How Patience Can Help With Instagram Hashtags

*UPDATE 8/14/2020: I ran my first Instagram post with no hashtags and my ‘Reach’ was down to 37 and ‘Impressions’ down to 40. That’s as low as it can go so I am going to add Instagram hashtags to our next post – I think I got my baseline…LOL!

Locatelli Pecorino Romano is the BEST Cheese for pasta“Pazienza, pazienza!”  That’s what my grandmother, Giovanna (or Jean for our english friends) would exclaim while she was sitting at the kitchen table with a box grater and a wheel of cheese and I was trying to grab chunks that didn’t get ‘grated’.

Those chunks of ungrated cheese were pure taste bud heaven and the most coveted prize in the house. Along with the sizzle and the thick, sweet smell of the onions sweating in a huge pot just waiting to marry the sausage, pork, braciole and tomatoes to make the most incredible Sunday gravy (yes it’s gravy if made with meat!), there was nothing more anticipated than seeing grandma sit at the kitchen table grating the cheese.

Same with hashtags… pazienza!

The hunt for the perfect set of Instagram hashtags has to be conducted with patience. Like a great Italian chef, marrying all the ingredients in perfect harmony to produce the perfect Sunday gravy, you have to patiently test differing hashtags from different types of hashtags. It takes time to get it just right but you’ll have a lot of great meals along the way.

In other words, if your patiently formulating a strategy for your hashtags you will test a lot of different combinations. Some may be  great performers and some may be okay but they are all good. They’re all better than doing nothing at all.

How Patience Can Help With Instagram Hashtags

It’s real easy to get frustrated while testing hashtags. The numbers, especially for people like us who don’t have 5000 followers, are small. To make matters worse, when we choose hashtags that aren’t quite hitting the mark, they’re even smaller. VERY FRUSTRATING!

But have hope mio amico… having patience will help to make things better over the long haul.

When you’re testing hashtags you should get at the least, 4 or 5 posts worth of data spread over different days and times. This will give you a good baseline to measure against. In fact, the more the better.

If you can go a few weeks running the same hashtags you would gather more data and the more data you have the better the conclusions you can make. The better conclusions you make, the better the hashtags you use and the more you can grow your reach on Instagram.

I get it – patience only lasts so long. I’m the most impatient s.o.b. you’ll find, and it’s really hard for me to follow my own advice, but I’m going to try it now.

Instagram Posts With No Hashtags

In fact, I’m going one step further. You know, because I’m so averse to pushing things to the extreme. I’m going to post my next handful of Digital Marketing in 60 Seconds or Less videos with no hashtags at all.

Once I see how my posts perform and I log the data, I will start adding hashtags again to see if there is any change. I have no idea at this point what to expect but I’m gonna try anyway.

I’m hoping that with a baseline using no hashtags I can then use empirical data to measure the effectiveness of the hashtags and combinations of hashtags I use.

I have no idea if this has been done, although I’m sure it has, or if it’ll be effective. It’s basically a mad scientific experiment.

We’ll see.

I’ll let you know how it works out in a few weeks. Until then… a dopo!

Off the Ladder Social Media

How to Post on Instagram When Followers Are Most Active

Do you spend a lot of time posting to your Instagram account and wonder why you’re not getting any engagement? I know I have!

There’s an answer.

Post when your audience is most active.

Sounds simple, right?

Most of the time, when an author writes “Sounds simple, right?” There’s always a catch… not this time.

It’s pretty simple to find out what day and what time your followers are most active. This assumes you already have a Instagram Professional account. If you don’t have one click here for a quick guide on How to Switch to a Professional Instagram Account (and why it matters).

Once you’ve caught up and you have a Professional account you can follow these easy steps or watch the accompanying Digital Marketing in 60 Seconds or Less episode.

How to Find When Followers Are Most Active

Step 01

Go to your Instagram profile and tap on “Insights”

How to Post on Instagram When Followers Are Most Active - Stafford Technologies Step 1

Step 02

Tap on the “Audience” tab to the right of your screen.

How to Post on Instagram When Followers Are Most Active - Stafford Technologies Step 2

Step 03

Scroll to the bottom of the page to find the “Followers” section.

The display will default for the current day of the week and will show data for the “Hours” your followers are most active on that day of the week historically.

*If you tap the graph the numbers will appear.

How to Post on Instagram When Followers Are Most Active - Stafford Technologies Step 03

Step 04

Tap on “Days” to see what days of the week your followers are most active.

*If you tap on the graph the numbers will appear.

How to Post on Instagram When Followers Are Most Active - Stafford Technologies Step 4

How to Post on Instagram When Followers Are Most Active

Now that you know where to find the information and what it means, you have to decide when to post your best content on Instagram.

If your followers are most active on Wednesdays around 12PM then this is when you would post your best content. You will get the most interaction and engagement by simply putting your content in front of the most eyes you can.

Please understand, this doesn’t mean that the hashtags you use will bring the best engagement at this day and time, it doesn’t. Your hashtags are for finding new followers and growing your reach.

That’s a whole different topic that we’ve started covering in the blog How to Research Hashtags for Instagram Posts.



Off the Ladder Social Media

Why Should I Measure Instagram Hashtag Performance?

I know everyone visits my blog for the great writing so I am sorry to disappoint today – this will be short and sweet. Today we’ll scratch the surface of measuring hashtags for Instagram posts.

Why should I measure Instagram hashtag performance?

As I stated in my last post, “How to Research Hashtags for Instagram Posts” if you’re not measuring you’re wasting your time.

Here is a quick example:

I changed up my hashtags for my last Instagram post. I don’t mean a slight change. I mean a wholesale change. I really wanted to get a good baseline so I went from these 30 hashtags:

#contractorsofinsta #buildersofinsta #homerenovationlife #marketing #marketingtips #digitalmarketing #seo #website #websitedesign #webdesigner #homebuilder #homebuilders #roofingcontractor #deckbuilding #builder #builders #generalcontractor #commercialconstruction #plumbers #hvac #remodeler #fredericksburg #stafford #staffordva #spotsylvania #virginia #workonafriday

to these 9:

#fredericksburgvirginia #staffordva #offtheladder #buildersofinstagram #contractorslife #remodelers
#generalcontractors #marketinghelp #marketing101

Was there a difference? Heck yeah! And it was all bad!

Here are the resulting numbers:

Profile Visits ↓ 100%
New Follows = No change
Reach ↓ 38%
Impressions ↓ 38%
From Home ↓ 16%
From Hashtags ↓ 68%
From Location ↓ 60%

Now that I have started to measure I can learn which hashtags are effective at reaching the target audience I want to reach. If I’m doing a good job with hashtags and increasing engagement, I will get follows.

When I get someone following me I immediately go to their profile to check out who they are and what they do. If they’re part of my target audience I’ll follow back. If not, I don’t. And, I of course block the Instasex followers – you know the ones… the pretty girls with no posts and 1200 followers.

How do I continue with measuring Instagram hashtag performance?

Listen. Everyone will have their own methods. I know I’m going to get readers (haters) who question my methods and who think I have no idea what I’m talking about but this is how I’m doing it for now.

Since I just started I am in the midst of creating either a spreadsheet or Microsoft Access database to track the hashtags and their performance. Yeah, I know. You think I should just pay for one of the hashtag trackers. I may. But for now I’m going it alone since I don’t have much data yet. If I can figure out how to track without paying for it I’ll let you know.

Anyway, I am adding one hashtag to the nine I used for my last Digital Marketing in 60 Seconds or Less post. I am adding #roofingcontractor.

I will wait two days and visit my Insights to see how my post performed with the new hashtag. If I see a huge jump in engagement I’ll know, almost definitively ( I say almost because it is Friday), that the new hashtag was probably the catalyst. Then I will have to decide where to go from there.

Well, that’s how I’m doing it. You can follow my guide or decide on another path which may very well include hashtag tracking software. It’s totally up to you.

Like James Garner says in “Support Your Local Sheriff!” (great movie) when, Harry Morgan, the Mayor says to him “I guess you know what you’re doing, Sheriff” My response is “I don’t know what I could have said to give you that idea.”

I’ve said from the very first post about Instagram that I’m learning with you. Now, I may not be on my way to Australia, but I am embarking on a journey and I’ve been honest since day one. I’d love for you to stick with me and learn this stuff together.

Please let me know if you have any thoughts on this. I have the comments off to protect against SPAM but you can fill out this quick form and if you give me permission, I’ll post your questions / comments here.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.


Off the Ladder Social Media

How to Research Hashtags for Instagram Posts

How do you research hashtags for Instagram posts…? Good ol’ hard work.

It’s that simple.

There’s no magic bullet. There’s no mysterious formula like the juicedratic equation. And sadly, there’s no Fortress Hashtag where our supervillain, the Darth Hash, concocts diabolical hashtags to subliminally draw people’s attention to posts (sorry – I’m listening to Wagner’s “The Ride of the Valkyries” as I write this and it reminds me of Darth Vader).

Research takes plain old hard work. Having said that, there are plenty of companies out there offering up software that will help you choose hashtags. But, to be honest, they’re not doing anything you can’t do on your own. And I’d bet you’d do a better job anyway.

Below I will give you a step by step guide on how you can do the research for Instagram hashtags. But, before I get to that, let’s talk about the why.

Why do I have to research  hashtags for Instagram?

Like anything else you do, you don’t want to waste your time.

You’re posting on Instagram to build an audience so people will buy your stuff or hire you to do crap they don’t want to do or can’t do. It’s business. And business is hard enough without you wasting time posting things that never get seen.

We post so people will see us as the go-to for their website design and Google My Business Management & Optimization (snuck in my shameless plug using that literary license I talked about yesterday…😁). I mean, I’m grateful that my sisters and my mom like my promotional posts but, to be brutally honest, there is no way I could care any less! They’re not my target audience and they conflate my Instagram Insights.

This is why we want targeted hashtags. We want to be sure we are attracting the correct audience. More importantly, we want to ensure we’re growing our targeted audience.

Last week, when I first started talking about this topic in my post, Why Use Hashtags When I Post to Social Media?, I talked about my mea culpa that “I never took the time to learn much about them” and now, just a week later I wish that wasn’t so true. When I started posting my Digital Marketing in 60 Seconds or Less videos, I had about 45 or so followers. Now I’m up to 219.

Imagine how many I would have if I knew how to use hashtags when I started.

Look, this stuff is important. And, if you’re going to post on Instagram or any other social media channel, you may as well do it right instead of wasting 3 months like I did.

What do Hashtags actually do?

That’s easy. Hashtags allow your posts to be found by people in your targeted audience who follow that hashtag. As an added bonus, your posts with the hashtag they’re following may show up in their main page feeds.

This is why it so important top get this stuff right. A great hashtag strategy can catapult a post’s engagement and catapult a campaign to incredible success. But, you have to use relevant hashtags. Because Instagram is allowing users to follow hashtags they also give users the power to mark hashtagged content as something they don’t want to see or in simple terms; SPAM.

Admittedly, it is a bit more involved than someone reporting your post as SPAM. And, considering how we all know way leads on to way, I’m hoping to come back to that topic later – fingers crossed🤞🏼.

So now you know why it’s important and you know why you have to research great, relevant hashtags, let’s get into how to research Instagram hashtags.

How to research hashtags for Instagram posts

Let’s first get through the step by step guide then we’ll talk about what we’re looking for.

Step 01

Navigate to your profile and click on the search icon at the bottom of the screen.

How to Research Instagram Hashtags - Stafford Technologies STEP 01

Step 02

Click to get the search started. You will immediately be brought to the next screen.

How to Research Instagram Hashtags - Stafford Technologies STEP 02

Step 03

Click on the “TAGS” tab.

How to Research Instagram Hashtags STEP 03- Stafford Technologies

Step 04

Start typing your hashtag search.

Let’s take a look at what I found when I searched for ‘contractors’, my main target.

The first two hashtags that come up are #contractorsofinsta and #contractors. Great! But it shows the people I follow who are following that hashtag instead of the number of posts. Not sure why… I tried to duplicate it but couldn’t. I’m kinda glad it came up so I can show you but it’s not exactly what I was looking for.

Anyway, as you can see UNDER the two errant hashtags on top, the hashtag search tool lets you know how many posts include that hashtag. This is great information. You can see if the hashtag is popular and worth using and you can see if the hashtag is too popular to bother. I’ll use my ‘#love’ hashtag example. With literally millions of posts a day using the ‘love’ hashtag there is no way my post can be found.

This is where your decision making acuity comes in to play.

You have to decide what to use. It’s pretty random at first but you have to start somewhere.

I’m still doing my own research so giving you a definitive answer as to how you make that decision may not be in the cards today. I can tell you that I look for around 10K to 25K posts. I feel that is enough traffic to be relevant but not enough to get buried. On the other hand we use some hashtags, especially for our niche like #contractors that have over 500K posts. There is a place for those as well but I’m convinced we will get more targeted eyes by using hashtags with fewer posts.

I’ll let you know a definitive answer (opinion) when we have enough sample data.

That brings up my next point. Once you get started you should measure the results so you can make better more informed decisions later.

We’ll talk about how to measure the hashtag performance in a later post but for now here is your actionable step. Make a list of ten hashtags using our guide on the types of hashtags you should use for your Instagram posts. That would be two Community hashtags, two Subject hashtags, two Niche hashtags, two Location hashtags, and two Branded hashtags. Start using them on your next post.

Then make another list of ten and another and another and another. It’s not good practice to use the same hashtags over and over (I’ve read this on several blogs so I’m going with it for now… if and when it is shown to me that this is bad information I will update this post) except for the branded hashtags (we use #staffordtechnologies in every post now).

Next we’ll talk about how many hashtags is optimal, when the best time to post on Instagram is, and how to measure your hashtag performance. There’s a lot to cover over the next few posts – I hope you’ll stick with me.