Category: Blog Feature

How SEO and Social Media Work Together

What’s More Important? SEO or Social Media?

Social Media brings instant, short-term traffic.  SEO is more long-term and will establish your position in search rankings for the long-term.

It takes weeks, even months, for SEO adjustments to your website to be reflected in search results.  Social Media on the other hand can be used to immediately drive traffic to your website.  Once a visitor arrives at your site, if you have an engaging interface that encourages visitors to explore additional pages, they will click through your website.  This engagement demonstrates to Google that your content is relevant to a particular type of visitor and search.  Google takes note and boosts your ranking for those types of searches and visitors.  For this reason, it is important to consider social media and SEO as working together.

Fact:  Social Media can bring instant traffic, but if you stop posting, traffic stops.  SEO takes longer to increase traffic but also sustains traffic longer.

What Is A Better Investment:
Social Media or SEO?

New Business:  If you are a new business with limited funds and you need to generate revenue in order to move forward, use Social Media to drive traffic to your site for sales.  Using that revenue, then invest in an SEO strategy that works with your Social Media profiles for long-term growth.

Established Business:  If you are a more established business, invest in a full assessment of your web presence.  Use SEO best practices on your existing website and social media platforms.  Utilize social media campaigns to drive traffic back to your site, and then monitor engagement, making changes to your site content as needed over time.

Our Method

Our method typically entails first ensuring that a website is using all of the best practices for SEO such as using key words, key phrases, meta tags and image alt tags, fast site speed & SSL.  Put simply, we get your house ready for visitors.  Then we use Social Media to drive traffic to your site, which, as mentioned above, is faster than getting SEO results.  We use heat maps & analytics to see how visitors interact with your site, and then modify the site content, organization and layout for achieving your engagement goals.  By the time this has been executed, which takes a couple of months, Google will have started to reflect modifications to your site, and your pages may begin to appear in searches that you have targeted.

Over time, we then use Google Search Console to even more closely fine tune your site for search results based on what searches your site is appearing in, and how you rank in those searches.  As an example, by looking at Search Console, we could see that Future Bright was appearing in searches for SEO professionals in our home town of Mill Valley.  We created a landing page specifically for that search, optimized it, and now that page is beginning to appear for that same search, and visitors who click on the site will see a page created especially for them.  You can view the page here.

After about six months have passed, a clear picture emerges of which social media platforms are most suitable for your business, what search terms are being used to find your business, and what type of content is most engaging.  Using that information, you can continue to create content with confidence, and with the tools that are in place, monitor the success of that content, and adjust as your audience interest shifts.

Conclusion:

First ensure that your site is using best practices for SEO and also has Google Analytics and a Facebook pixel installed.  Then use Social Media to drive traffic to your site.  Monitor engagement on your site with a heat map, and adjust for user experience.  Utilize Google Search Console to learn how you are doing with searches for your keywords, and adjust or add new content based on those results.

How SEO and Social Media Work Together

How To Make Social Media & SEO Work Together

  1. Install Analytics Tracking Onto Your Website
  2. Create social media profiles on relevant platforms
  3. Identify key words to use in your content
  4. Write content on your website
  5. Share your content on your social media platforms to drive traffic back to your website
  6. Use good layout and internal links (UX) to encourage visitors to look at multiple pages & convert
  7. Read your analytics reporting to learn what is/not working
  8. Adjust, refine, repeat

SEO Components

Meta Tags

Page Descriptions

Keyword Rich Content

Site Architecture

Keyword Focused Landing Pages

Website Speed

User Experience

Structured Data

Analytics

Search Console

Back Links

Future Bright Heat Map Image

Heat Maps & Visitor Trails – Make Your Website A Blazing Force!

Night Vision For Websites – A Case Study!

Question:  Who are all of these visitors, what do they do when they get here, and why are they not converting into paying customers?

A Northern California client came to us for help with increasing leads for their environmental clean-up business.  They have a pretty high volume of traffic for a small local business.  They receive 30,000+ visitors per month.  By looking at Google Analytics, we were able to see that most of the visitors are going to five blog articles discussing Carbon Monoxide and a few other home environmental topics.  InfusionSoft is operating in the background, collecting leads, but leads were only trickling in, perhaps just a few per week.  We could also see that only 1/6 of users who started the Request A Quote form were completing it.  Two thirds of their site traffic comes from the East coast (3000 miles away), and Southern California, so does not represent potential clients.  The site has an average on page time of 6 minutes with a bounce rate of 90%.  How odd!

What would you do?  This is the fun part of our work:  playing detective.

Our first objective was to follow the rule that it is cheaper to get business from existing clients than to go out and find new ones.  Rather than trying to bring in new traffic, we wanted to try to convert more of their existing traffic, and monetize the traffic from users who are geographically not potential clients.  The client would be overbooked if they had 40 projects in a month.  It certainly should be possible to convert 40 users out of 30,000 into customers!

The Never Ending Form

The first thing we did was ask the client about the “Request A Quote” form.  Just a tiny percentage of those who started the form actually completed it.  Why were people dropping off?  How long is the form, we asked?  “Six pages long” was the reply.  When they created the quote form, the client was concerned that they would be flooded with requests, so they made the Request A Quote form intentionally long as a way to scare off people who didn’t really need help, and required a response for every single question so that only someone who really wanted a call would go through the trouble of filling it out.  They certainly were successful in deterring responses!  Isn’t that thought process just adorable?  We have seen this many times.  “Make the user really try hard to reach us because then we know that for sure they want our help so that we don’t waste our time with people who aren’t going to turn into customers”.

We recommended using a short form first, and if calls did in fact start flooding in, THEN adjust.  We replaced the six page form with a five question form.  Within a week the number of form completions doubled.   We are testing this short form and then will test an even shorter form.

By utilizing Google Analytics and heat map technology we were able to determine that there was too much of a barrier to collect qualified leads, and shortened the form, plus removed the annoying pop-up.  The high volume of traffic is mostly comprised of actual human users who find the content extremely relevant and compelling.  They are not potential clients for the services offered due to their geographic location, but it should be possible to provide additional value to them by making recommendation for trusted products this generate a bit of additional income through affiliate and referral agreements.

Chez BeeSen, Mediterranean Cuisine

Future Bright Heat Map Image

This San Francisco Lunch Spot does catering, and also walk-in orders.  We use a heat map to find out what users are interested in, and what they click on.  We can see how far down they scroll on the home page, and what the engagement is on desktop vs. mobile.

Bounce Rate And On-Page Time

The next piece of the puzzle is this high number of visits to six of their blog articles.  The articles receive several hundred visitors per day.  An SEO analyst had told them that the traffic was all bots.  We disagreed, based on what we saw in the data and “sensed”.  But how do we know for sure?  How can we solve this mysterious data showing long on-page times yet a high bounce rate?  It appeared from our initial examination that these are real users who land at these blog entries, read the ENTIRE thing, and then leave.  We didn’t think they were bots.  But to try to engage with these anonymous users, and to know for certain that they are real, we had to learn more than we could get from Google Analytics.

This is where the heat maps and user trails come in.  What we learned was incredibly valuable.   When we studied reports made on the  carbon monoxide blog article, a stunning 75% of users scrolled all the way to the bottom of the page reading carefully and slowly.  By recording over 100 user’s movements, we were able to see that the opt-in pop-up was a huge annoyance, yet it didn’t send them running, they simply closed it and continued reading all the way to the end.  They often scrolled up to read a section again.  Folks!  We have real users here!  Plus, they find the information in the article so compelling that they read the entire thing!

Summary

By utilizing Google Analytics and heat maps, we were able to determine that there was too much of a barrier for users to request a quote.  We removed the pop-up and reduced the Request A Quote form to just a few questions.  The high volume of traffic was found to be actual humans, who find the information in the article very compelling and relevant.  They are not potential customers due mainly to their geographic location, but it should be possible to engage them in other was such as through affiliate agreements or referrals to businesses that are located in their area.

Alignable Spam – How To Delete Alignable

Is Alignable pilfering your email list?

Alignable will trick or mislead you into giving them access to your contacts and then will spam them daily and relentlessly in your name for months.  Already a victim?  Here is how to escape.    If you haven’t accepted an invitation but are getting spammed, select “unsubscribe” immediately and don’t look back.

My Story!  Does This Sound Familiar?

One morning on June 21, 2017 I received an email from one of my favorite clients.  Her note said that she wanted to refer clients to me so had added me to something called Alignable.  The email sounded so friendly that I thought that she had written it, and that she actually had a few people that she wanted to refer to us at Future Bright (We build beautiful and mighty websites.)  I clicked the “accept” button.  I had unknowingly entered the Alignable funnel and beginning immediately I was bombarded daily and relentlessly by emails claiming “you have pending referral opportunities”.  In each email was a big fat green button that said “invite”.  I realized that what they wanted was my email list.  I received no less than eighty emails in sixty days’ time.

Your E-Mail List Is Your Holy Grail!

Anyone who owns a business knows that your email list is your holy grail.  Your crown jewel.  It is to be protected, carefully used, and never ever shared.  That is why Alignable wants your list so badly!  I became nervous.  I knew that their access to my email list was just one careless click away. I wanted to end the barrage of emails, but I wasn’t sure if this was perhaps an emerging tool and didn’t want to miss out.  I read articles about the site and didn’t find any negative comments (To this day I can’t figure out how they are managing to bury complaints).  They seemed to be writing some interesting research reports…

Then, on August 21, I received an email that said,

 

I thought that Alignable was recommending that I connect with one new person.  It says “a” business connection.  Doesn’t that mean just one? The button says, “Add My Connection”.  That is just one connection right? I think back to that day and run through it in slow motion over and over, as I moved my mouse over the green button and clicked “yes, add my connection!”  Why did I press that button!!!???  They had tried and tried and tried and failed to get me to click the “invite” button, so they must have their funnel set to “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try, then lie”.  They didn’t mean “a” they really meant “all”.

Two days later on August 23, when I opened my email, I experienced that horror one must feel when you realize that you actually HADN’T turned the microphone off.  I received an invitation to Alignable from myself to four different email address that I use in my business.  I realized that my contact list had been taken.

I had been tricked!  I felt embarrassed, horrified, knowing that over that morning, thousands of my contacts would be receiving a super friendly fake invitation from me.   Clicking that green button hadn’t added just one contact, it gave them access to all 4,000 of my contacts and sent each of them the same friendly seeming note that I had received.  Four thousand of my contacts were about to be thrown into the same confusion and relentless emailing that I had found myself in.

My embarrassment transformed into anger.  I was furious!  I tried to call the help number on the website but got an answering machine…an answering machine!

What could I do?  I debated sending my own spam to warn everyone.  Would that do more harm than good?  How do I know if EVERYONE has been spammed?  I waited.  Maybe other folks would be smarter and wouldn’t be fooled like me.  Maybe Alignable didn’t take my whole list.  Over the weeks, I began to receive notices that someone had accepted my invitation.  Months later, I was still receiving them.  I knew then that for months people had been pestered by an auto-send email like I had been.  Six months later, a former colleague of mine approached me and asked, “do you find Alignable useful?  I keep getting invitations from you”.  I realized that he had been getting invitations from “me” for months.  I knew then that I need to write this post and send it out to my entire list.  Alignable is compiling a huge list of email addresses that they have acquired through misleading practices.  Alignable has probably now accumulated millions upon millions of email addresses.

How To Stop Receiving Invitations

If you receive an invitation from one of your colleagues, chances are they actually did not send the invitation themselves.  If you believe that the invitation is legit, simply call them to ask them if they do indeed benefit from Alignable and want to connect with you there.  If you do decide to join, be very mindful of Alignable’s unrelenting efforts to get you to allow them to grab your entire contact list.  If you do not want to take the risk with Alignable,  simply avoid all of this and click the “Unsubscribe” link at the bottom of the invitation.

 

How To Delete Your Alignable Account

If you have already created an Alignable account and want to go back in time to before the nightmare began, you can delete your account, but unfortunately you cannot delete the invitations that may have been sent out on your behalf.

Deletion Instructions:

Step 1:  Go to https://www.alignable.com/ and log in to your account.

Step 2:  At the top right of the page you will see several icons.  Click on your name and select “Account Settings”.

Step 3:  Click on the red button that says “Deactivate Account”.

Step 4:  You will be sent to a screen that asks if you are sure that you want to delete your account.  Click on the green button that says “Send me deactivation instructions”.

Step 5:  You will receive a deactivation email.  Follow the instructions in that email.

Your account has now been deactivated.

How To Get Alignable To Stop Spamming Your Contacts In Your Name

There isn’t a way to do this.  I AM SORRY!!!  You cannot stop them.  This is the worst part.  And it is why their business model is flawed and so horrible.   If you have experienced Alignable spamming your contacts, I would send an e-mail out to all of your clients and contacts to try to save them if you can. You can also send them a link to this article if you wish.  It is hard to admit that you made this mistake, but it is a very easy one to make, and if you don’t tell them, they will experience months of anguish.  Don’t feel bad for being duped.  I am the world’s best skeptic, especially since I am in the industry, yet even so, out of politeness to my very loved client, I was sucked in.

Good Luck!  This article gets 1000 views in Google each month, so you can be sure, you are not alone!

Wendy Louise Nog, Founder

wendy@future-bright.com

Future Bright
Future Bright Portfolio - Crossroads Cafe

Websites, Social Media, SEO

Solutions For Individuals & Small Businesses

Founder, Digital Strategist, Wendy Louise Nog
Founder, Digital Strategist, Wendy Louise Nog

We are 100% dedicated to your success!

Elsie Green Shelf

North Bay Getaway – Discover “The Barlow” In Sebastopol, CA

My view of Sebastopol being a retreat for aging hippie artists (note:  my mom is in that category) was turned on its head this week.  I am not certain at which point in recent history “artists” began to share the limelight with “artisans”, but I am certain that it must have been some time around the slow food movement, which led to the farm-to-table movement, which led to mason jar water glasses in Michelen star restaurants, and the rest is history.

The continuous gutting of small shops and downtowns by big box stores, and the lingering recession of 2008 resulted in thousands of vacant retail shops of all sizes in neighborhoods with shuttered and abandoned warehouses around the country.  This created affordable spaces for artists, craftspersons, and chefs to set up shop not only in cities, but in the outer reaches.

The Barlow
Elsie Green Boards

Photographs By Wendy Louise Nog

The artist retreat of Sebastopol was faced with a similar challenge of lost industry, and a twelve acre apple processing business was mainly unused and in disrepair.  Recognizing that this space provided an opportunity to develop a craftspersons and boutique retail area, it was purchased by local Barnie Aldridge, who planned and executed a revival and renovation of the buildings and area, and named it “The Barlow” after the Barlow Family of apple growers that had once used this space.

It is fascinating to observe that the further we advance technologically, the further back we reach to revisit the past, to a time before plastic when all that was made would over time return to the earth to be recycled by its systems.  There is something fundamentally relaxing to hold an object that is of completely natural materials.  I believe that even though we may not be aware of it, our brains are analyzing the objects we interact with far beyond identifying the color, but also where it fits into this complex system that it must interpret correctly in order for us to survive.  Our brains can recognize that a plastic container we toss into the trash has a life cycle that is not natural, and we experience this awareness hundreds of times each day.  This creates a sense of unease, and we may not even be aware of its source.  When we bring natural fabrics and materials into everyday use, there is a palpable change that takes place in our sense of well being.  This is why artisan products made with natural materials have become so sought after.

DIGITAL MARKETING SOLUTIONS FOR FOOD ARTISANS AND CRAFTSPERSONS

HOW TO WORK WITH FUTURE BRIGHT

Crossroads Cafe - Future Bright Website Design

1. Schedule A Consultation

2. Tell Us Your Story

3. Follow Our Recommendations

Sebastopol sits just West of Santa Rosa, CA an hour’s drive from San Francisco, and is the last large town when you head West, leaving way to farmland and then the rugged hills and coast of Mendocino.  The Wine Industry has spilled over 101 and headed towards Sebastopol, and you can now see vineyards where there once cows and old fences.  The Barlow is a modern shed experience on twelve acres of land right in downtown Sebastopol.  There are forty retail and industrial use spots in The Barlow, and as you wander along the streets you will observe wine tasting, the weaving of gorgeous fabrics, brewing of beer, the making of ice cream, and so much more.

As always, I don’t want to spoil the surprise, so will not tell you everything about the wine tasting, the breweries, the galleries, but I will share with you three of the spots that we visited.  The first is a clothing and gift boutique called Scout.  As a logo buff, the Scout logo is a head turner for me, and I had to go see what was inside.  The Scout shop is a curated collection of simply designed, artisan objects to use and wear.  The shop features artisans from around the country and overseas, and you will certainly find something to bring home.

Scour West County Logo On Wall
Scout Store
Scout Infant Sweater

Taylor Lane Organic Coffee, Sebastopol, CA

A second spot we got to know very well was Taylor Lane Organic Coffee, because we spent the entire work day hunkered down on their open upper level, and it was fascinating to observe the clientele passing through.  There was a wide range of the before mentioned aging hippie artists, and also hipsters, farmers, young artists, and people who seemed to be in the wine and beer industry, which requires a whole swath of different types of people.  Creatives have been retreating further north from the high prices of San Francisco and Southern Marin.  The wine country has spread west over 101,  and there are expansive preserves of farmland to the south and west where cheeses of all types are emerging from creameries.  The now legal cannabis industry is filtering south from Humboldt County, and Sebastopol is the epicenter of all of these.

Elsie Green, Sebastopol, CA

The third shop that we spent a great deal of time in is the Elsie Green shop.  This absolutely beautiful shop made me cry a little, that my life’s journey hadn’t landed me in an old French house with a kitchen filled with old wooden spoons and copper pots.  But I picked myself up by my bootstraps, or rather, sandal straps, and wandered through the store imagining myself cutting flowers on a big wooden chopping block, or setting the table before whooshing out to the garden to pick warm tomatoes and fresh fennel for a salad that I had to toss together quickly because I could hear my guests’ car winding up the hillside to my home, perched on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

Elsie Green Wall Hooks
Elsie Green Table

Fern Bar, Sebastopol, CA

My absolute favorite was the Fern Bar.  After going to a folk concert at nearby HopMonk, we walked back over to The Barlow to visit FernBar, where we were greeted by bartender Matt, formerly of SpoonBar in Healdsburg.  Matt was mixing up a delicious array of cocktails, and since I had already reached my three-is-really-all-I-can-handle limit, he created the most delicious mohito I have ever tasted…and there wasn’t even any alcohol!  A three-piece band consisting of a stand-up bass, piano, and since I had three beverages by then I can’t remember what the third was, but in any case, I was happy sitting on that bar stool in that beautiful space with a good friend, sipping a fizzy drink and listening to jazz.  It doesn’t get any better than that for me.  Alas I did not get any photographs, but all the better, so that you can find out for yourself.

Fern Bar Matthew
Fern Bar Drink
Future Bright Wendy & Stephanie

The author, and friend Stephanie Guaiumi, who introduced her to The Barlow.  Stephanie and her husband make their own wine, and she often brings the author preserves made in her kitchen. You need a four-wheel drive truck to get to Stephanie’s summer home, which is perched on a hill  behind their orchards in Lake County.

FOOD & ARTISTRY & DESIGN BLOG

Ariana Bundy Restaurant In Dubai

Persian Restaurant Ariana’s Kitchen To Open In Dubai

Ariana Bundy Restaurant In Dubai

 

 

My young daughter and I sat in an outdoor patio of a cafe whose entrance was piled with desserts and pastries of every color in the rainbow, and that looked out over the calming pool below.  Far below.  We were on the seventh level of cafes that line the edge of the Dubai Mall, and as we sat and breathed in the air, and wondered at the slightly orange tint that a distant sand storm gave the surrounding buildings, for the first time in two weeks, we felt totally at ease.

Our trip from California to visit family in Kolkata was punctuated by the extreme opposites that you experience when traveling anywhere in India, and we had arrived in Dubai fairly well shaken.  Being a woman traveling alone with a young girl had required a focused alertness that was exhausting.  We were very excited to have landed in Dubai, and of course had seen the Burj Khalifa as we approached from the air.  We took a pristinely clean train from the Dubai airport, exited at the great mall train stop, and walked along the never-ending corridors of moving sidewalks until we finally reached our destination and discovered a cafe where we could sit, relax, and take in this new environment.  As we sat in the sun listening to the ambient music surrounding us, I felt all of the worries, the stress of travel, the concerns about anything at all, completely melt away.  We sat there in wonder, experiencing together that feeling that can only be had in Dubai.

My purpose for visiting this incredible city was to connect with my Website Design client, Celebrity Persian Chef Ariana Bundy, who is opening a Persian restaurant, “Ariana’s Persian Kitchen” at the astonishing Royal Atlantis Hotel & Residences.  Her Persian cuisine is infused with rose, saffron, pistachios, and will feature an amazing menu of ancient recipes.  She is also renovating a 300 year old residence at a separate location to serve as a cooking school and destination inn.  Her story is one that reflects the story of Dubai.  It is a place where you can dream, and make those dreams come true.  It is a playground for architects and developers, chefs and designers, artists and travelers, and absolutely anything that you can imagine is possible, including creating a map of the world with islands.  Future Bright has been so honored to have accompanied her on this journey, and as a boutique website design agency that specializes in food, this was an incredibly special visit.

We were able to easily take Uber everywhere, and every driver we had was kind, friendly, and open to share about their origins and family.  We also felt completely safe.  Like most of the residents of Dubai, the drivers were all from somewhere else, which is very much like our residence in California.

Our gracious host Paul Hughes, husband and partner of Ariana Bundy, gave us a tour of the area around where we were staying, and it was simply mind-boggling to suddenly come upon another and yet another cluster of 100 skyscrapers.  The construction of new buildings was happening everywhere, and it was exciting to see and imagine how they would be when they were finished based on the impossible angles that seemed to be emerging beneath towering cranes.  We had dinner at Jumeirah Al Qasr, a five-star resort, and sat in a lounge overlooking the canals lined with palm trees.  The entire structure was built of beautiful marble and granite.  The food was incredibly flavorful, and the wine completely unfamiliar, which is disorienting and wonderful at the same time.

The always futuristic World Expo is to be held in Dubai in 2020, and construction has already begun, with countries building astonishing representations of their most creative architecture.  It is tempting to list all of the details of our time spent exploring the amazing city of Dubai, but it is so much more fun to discover it yourself.  We will definitely be returning, and can’t wait to taste a saffron infused ice cream from Ariana’s restaurant overlooking the salty expanse of the Persian Gulf waters.

Wendy Louise Nog, MSTMWendy Louise Nog is Founder and Digital Strategist for Future Bright Interactive, a website development agency based in Silicon Valley, CA.

CANORML

New Website For CANORML

After

CANORML

Before

Future Bright Before

The CaNORML Website

The organization has worked tirelessly for the rights of cannabis users in California, and because of their lobbying, we now have the largest potential cannabis market in the world.  The previous design reflected the beginnings of the movement, and when we met with the client we saw that there was a fear of updating the look, because it would somehow wash over all that they had sacrificed, and all of the work that they had done.

I explained to them that what we wanted to do with this new website was to turn their work into a celebration.  They are still one of the most important resources for drug testing information in the state, and they get 3 million visits per year.  We wanted to show the dignity in the use of medical marijuana, and a celebration of the state-of-the-art facilities and gorgeous designs that are coming out of the industry.

We also built a directory for cannabis brands, and those businesses that provide services to cannabis entrepreneurs.

We are so excited to see how they use their site over the next few years as we are all transformed by these changes not only in our legal system, but in our societal and business norms.

www.canorml.org
Greenwood School, Mill Valley, CA

Earth Focused Greenwood School – Mill Valley – Enrollment time K-8!

Weekly outings, organic lunches, fine art, music, math, & science – tuition assistance!  It’s school enrollment time for next year!  It is a good time for me to marvel about the amazing elementary school my two daughters attend, Greenwood School in Downtown Mill Valley.  Now, more than ever, it is important for young people to have a connection to the planet.  They will be the ones to create the solutions to the problems that ours and past generations created, and the solutions will require working with and understanding our ecosystem.  This will require not just a love for nature, but a deep understanding of science, mathematics, and engineering.  There are many ways to present these subjects, and many philosophies of teaching.  The Waldorf method is exploration based, and as kids move up in the grades, they gradually move towards more formal methods, with a goal of entering high-school slightly ahead of what is required.

If you are like me, I yearned for a school where my children could thrive, that would allow their minds to explore a wide range of curiosities, connect them to this planet, and that would have challenging, even above average mathematics and science woven into the curriculum in a way that felt natural and workable.  I wanted a tech-free environment that got them away from the classroom and out into nature where they could learn how things work by experiencing them, rather than from a workbook or video.

My kids started out at a Waldorf inspired school in Minneapolis.  When we moved to Mill Valley, we put them into the local schools for the obvious reason that they are free, and are known to be some of the best public schools.  As time went by however, we began to miss what they had been getting from the hands-on natural world focused curriculum that they had received at their previous Waldorf school.  We also missed the richness in the projects, and the fieldtrips that I know gave them a deeper understanding of how the world works.  We looked at Greenwood, and knew that this was the right place for our family.

Greenwood School, Mill Valley, CA

The boat Freda
Spaulding Boatworks in Mill Valley

Greenwood School, Mill Valley, CA

Nurturing Confident, Global Citizens

I heard some alarming statistics that in a survey of students, Mill Valley middle schoolers suffer some of the worst bullying, self-harming, and nicotine use in the state of California.  In an area of such abundance, where these kids are getting such a head-start from most children in the world, it is they who have the greatest chance at making an impact, creating the biggest change, reaching the highest peaks.  This is why we live here.  I know that we all have this vision for our children.  To observe what goes on when we release our children in the morning to the schools can be frightening, and as a parent it is easy to feel helpless and frustrated.  There is a choice.  We chose Greenwood for our daughters.  Our son is in MVMS in sixth grade, and so-far is mostly oblivious to anything beyond “am I hungry” and “where is my homework”.  Our daughters switched in third and fourth grades when we started to sense a change in the dynamics of the kids at school from innocence to something that felt harmful and having subject matters beyond their age.

The Greenwood school has a Waldorf inspired curriculum that combines play based learning, earth-centered history, and the mathematics and physics of the universe, solarsystem, and our physical world.  The children have weekly educational field trips that include hikes and visits to nature-oriented organizations.  Children begin to learn to play the violin in third grade, and they learn classical as well as folk songs.  Before learning to read or write, they learn about the idea of language, the skills of drawing beautiful patterns that prepare their hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills for writing.

Greenwood, Mill Valley
Exercise in using the compass to measure distance, angles, and a study in patterns.

Hands-On And Fine Motor Skills Projects

When I first visited Greenwood, the third grade classroom had finished a project where they had gone to a sheep farm, acquired wool, collected plants in the fields, and brought them back to their classroom to create dye, dye the wool, spin it into yarn, and then knit scarves.  While this may seem like an antiquated skill, it actually entailed understanding the care of animals, the science of dyes, the way fibers work, and intricate, mathematics-based hand-work.  Going back to artisan crafted goods is a rising solution to the waste that has been produced, and will be an important way forward.  As the children get older, the field trips become more involved.  My seventh grader is going to the Spaulding boat works each month to sometimes sail, sometimes work with wood.  In two weeks they are taking a week long trip to a nature camp in where they will need to create their own shelters.  This wide range of experiences creates a sense of confidence and teamwork that will last for the rest of their lives.

Greenwood School, Mill Valley
Greenwood School, Mill Valley, CA

And The Food!

Since this is my food blog, then let me talk a bit about Greenwood, Waldorf, and food.  I have to admit now here that one of the major benefits of attending a private school is that they serve wine at the functions!  I mean, not just occasionally, but every…single…one.  Having an earth-centric focus means that the food served at these functions is beautiful and incredible!  The dishes are real, the wine glasses are real, and it feels for just an hour or two like we have been transported to the countryside in Sonoma County.

The founding Waldorf philosophy about how children develop is based on ensuring that the child has nourishment that sustains them.  The earliest traditions children experience at a Waldorf school revolve around food.  When we were in Minneapolis, all three of my kids attended a Waldorf inspired school, and from toddlers all through elementary school, one day per week the children made vegetable soup one.  Walking through the vegetable aisle with my little ones so that they could select a vegetable from all of the beautiful colors on display is one of my favorite memories from that time.  Children each brought a an organic vegetable, helped peel the vegetables, chopped them with kid-safe choppers, and the soup was cooked in a big pot right in the classroom, filling the room with wonderful aromas.  Soup is served as a mid-morning snack, and the children sit around a beautifully set table, sharing a meal with their teacher.  In preschool and kindergarten and sometimes even first grade, the other weekly activity is the making of bread.  The kneading of bread, learning to fold it, rolling out, and forming it is more than just play, their brains are being activated in very particular ways that involve folding, counting, texture, material, moisture, and the bending and forming of a malleable substance.  The bread is baked, and they sit together and eat the bread that they just made, often with a locally made butter, and local honey.

These hands-on experiences of preparing food nourishes not only their bodies, but creates a beautiful, positive relationship with food and cooking.  At every turn, the children are experiencing the possibilities of living in concert with our eco-system.  Lunches at Greenwood are prepared by Good Earth Grocery, and are entirely organic and waste-free.  What a gift to be able to give our children this healthy break from in their day!

Greenwood School, Mill Valley, CA
Greenwood School, Mill Valley, CA, Making Bread

The Greenwood Families

Like many parents who send their children to a Waldorf (inspired or fully) schools around the world, we are engineers.  The parent community at many Waldorf schools include tech folks, artisans, craftspersons, musicians, and of course those in the natural or environmental sciences.  There are single parents, mixed families, mixed cultures, and families who heard about the school and it just struck them as the right place for their child.    There is also financial aid available for those who need it.

The entrance to Greenwood begins with a two-day visit, and the children get to meet their classmates, and see how they feel.  It is a wonderful experience, and it is amazing how kids seem to just settle in and feel at home.  If you are interested in learning more, I encourage you to reach out to Greenwood or if you are in another area, find your local Waldorf school.  You may just find a beautiful path that alters your child’s future forever.

About The Author:

Wendy Louise Nog is the mother of three, and the owner of Future Bright, a digital agency in Mill Valley California.  Her children have attended Waldorf inspired toddler, pre-school and elementary schools since they were small.  Wendy has a highly technical job, but recognizes the importance of creativity in finding solutions for technical challenges, and wants her children to have access to those creative pathways in their brains.

Greenwood School, Mill Valley, Kindergarteners
Future Bright Google My Business

How To Create A Google My Business Page

Why Do You Need A Google Business Profile?

Google uses your business profile to determine your service area, and will place your business on the map so that you appear on search result maps.  Your entire profile may appear on the right side of search results.  Google uses the services that you enter to determine key words relevant to your business.  They may already have a profile for you that you have not claimed, so it is better to be in control.

We Can Help!

If you are time constrained, we can create your Google My Business page for you.  See the bottom of this page for detailed information.

How To Create A Google My Business Page

  1. Go To The Google Business Set-Up Page
  2. Log In with your Gmail/Google Email or create a new account
  3. Add information to your profile
  4. You can hide your physical address
  5. Save The Profile.
  6. Within two weeks, Google will send you a postcard via snail mail with a code.  Log In and enter the code to verify your business.

You will receive regular updates on the performance of your profile.  You will also be able to see how often your profile appeared in searches, was clicked, or was looked at on the map.

Having a Google My Business listing is so critical that if you do nothing else online, you must create a business page on Google My Business.

Having a Google My Business account achieves the following:

  • You appear on Google Maps
  • You appear on the map for search results
  • Google knows your geographic location
  • A rich media snippet is created for you business that includes the following:
    • Image carousel that you choose
    • Link to your website
    • Link to your phone number
    • Link to your address if you make it public
  • It shows Google Reviews
  • It shows Yelp and Facebook Reviews
  • Services that you list are scanned for keywords that Google uses for its search results
  • You receive free analytics showing how often you were viewed and clicked
Our Profile
Google Search Results For Google My Business
How To Make Your WordPress Website Insanely Fast

How To Make Your WordPress Website Load Insanely Fast

Updated Spring 2019

How To Make Your WordPress Website Load Insanely Fast

Top 5 Reasons Why Your Website Is Slow

  1.  Images are too large
  2.  Code is not compressed
  3.  Code, Javascript or plug-in errors
  4.  Site is not cached
  5.  Server is slow

Other less obvious reasons:

  • Your domain has a redirect
  • Another site on your shared server is being attacked
  • Too many elements on your site are trying to load at the same time
  • PHP version does not match the WordPress, Theme, or plug-in version
Website Assessment Report
How To Make A Wordpress Site Insanely Fast

Website Speed Tests:

Following are the site speed tests that we use.  Test results will vary vastly depending upon how busy your server is, and many other factors.  Try at different times during the day to learn more about what your visitors experience.  We try to keep a site fully rendering in under 2 seconds.  Under one second is the magic number!

The Future Bright Website Grader:
Future Bright Website Grader

Pingdom:
tools.pingdom.com/

Google:
developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/

Dot Com Tools:
www.dotcom-tools.com/website-speed-test.aspx

GT Metrix:

gtmetrix.com/

How To Make Your WordPress Website Insanely Fast

  1. Reduce Your Image Sizes
  2. Asset Optimization through GZIP, compression, &  minify (theme, images, scripts, and files)
  3. Implement Browser Caching
  4. Configure Your Hosting & Server Optimally
  5. Utilize a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
  6. Use Cloudflare

The Details

Following are more details about the above items.  It can take 5-8 hours to implement all of these, including testing, so consider that in your cost estimates so that you can weigh cost/benefits.  It is especially important to move carefully if you are working on a live site.

Select A Good Theme – Or Build Your Own

We primarily use a WordPress theme called Patti.  We have chosen Patti because it is simple, clean, and has beautiful 20/40/60 spacing.  We specialize in creating visually stunning websites, so we needed a starting theme that felt free, airy, modern, and that is highly flexible.  We found all of these in Patti, which also allows you to use custom short-codes.  We speed test the demo version of every theme we consider.  The demo must load in under 2 seconds.  Every theme has its pros and cons.  Because we use lots of huge images, if our score on Google’s Page Speed Insights is in the green, we are happy!

Server Optimization – Your Host Provider Can Perform These Tasks

  • Choose a host that is known for being fast.
  • Have your host “Set my PHP Max Input Vars to 1540”
  • Ensure that Gzip is enabled on your server
  • If Needed, host your website on a dedicated Server (is more expensive, around $100/month)

Asset Optimization & Browser Caching Plugins

Font Optimization

If you are using Google or other custom fonts, your site can render a default font first, and then the custom or Google font.  Use the CSS below.  Note of caution:  the user will observe the transition, so if design is important to you, this may not be an option.  You can find other options at:  FONT OPTIMIZATION

/**draw text then swaps when font loads**/
body{ font-display: swap;}

WordPress Plugins

We utilize the following plugins to achieve asset optimization and caching.  I will not go over all of the settings because you will need to play around with the options based upon your particular site.  If you are working on a live site, continuously check the site to ensure that any features you have implemented have not broken your site.  Specifically, minifying CSS and Javascript can cause issues.  If your site is not WordPress, look for added widgets or features, or what ever your platform offers, for the below functionality.

WPMU – Smush

  • Compresses Images
  • Reduces all images to a maximum size that you set.  No accidental 6MB file sizes!

WPMU Hummingbird Pro

  • Analyzer
  • Weekly Report Email
  • Caching
  • Gzip
  • Asset Compressing(minify – may break your theme, use carefully)
  • Tools:  WPMU Dev CDN for JavaScript and CSS files

WP Disable – Optimization.io

  • Heartbeat at 60 or above (https://www.siteground.com/tutorials/wordpress/limit-heartbeat/)
  • Removes Bloat
  • Database Clean-Up
  • Offload Google Analytics (not always done)

Swift Performance Lite

  • Speed Booster
  • Eliminate render-blocking JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content (doesn’t always work)
  • Leverage browser caching
  • CDN Optional

WP Rocket Can take your site from 40 to 80 just by activating it.

  • A powerful, paid alternative to Swift (my other favorite), Super & W3 Total
  • Easy Activation
  • Minification
  • Caching
  • Image Load As Needed
  • Caches your site

Content Delivery Network (CDN)

Many of the above plugins include CDN’s.  They also offer storing CSS and scripts off site.  We do not use those, only because it becomes challenging to keep track of everything that is going on with a site.  We simply use one CDN for the entire site.  A CDN creates copies of your site throughout the world.  Your site is then served to a user from the location that is closest to them.  Because the site is a completely cached copy, delivery can be very fast.  If you have having speed issues due to your SSL Certificate (in speed tests your domain name takes a long time to load), a CDN may resolve this issue.

There are many CDN’s to choose from.  We utilize Cloudflare.

Website Hosting Service

As hosting providers grow, their servers tend to slow.  We now steer clients away from BlueHost and GoDaddy.   If you are not in need of an enterprise-level hosting platform, there are several providers that we can recommend.

  1.  Site Ground – in our testing, an identical page loaded in 945 ms on Site Ground, and 1.6 on WPEngine.
  2. WPEngine – We started out with our agency account at BlueHost, but left due to down-time, then moved to a local partner who managed our servers at MediaTemple, but again left because of down-time issues and speed.  We are now settled in at WP Engine because of all that they offer.  We like having a managed wordpress account because the back-ups, PHP updates and WordPress updates are all taken care of. This is a big time saver, and a cost saver definitely for the client. WP Engine also caches each website, has free SSL certificates, and also a CDN.

 CONCLUSION

Sometimes finding that one thing that is slowing a site down feels like searching for a needle in a haystack.  If you go through the above list and implement them all, and you are still having issues, it may be worthwhile to hire fresh eyes to take a look.  Sometimes someone who isn’t familiar with your site can spot things that you overlook because you have looked at your site a million times.  I hope that you find this list beneficial.  Of course every website is different, and you may use only some of these options.  I wish you speed!

–Wendy Louise Nog, MSTM, Founder of Future Bright

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