True North

Triad Payroll Company Increases Mobile Engagement 97% with Responsive Website

Responsive Web DesignScott Jenkins, President of Payroll Solutions, knew his website wasn’t up to par. It was nearly ten years old, and his team realized that a responsive design would be vital to meet client needs. As a result, Jenkins contacted North Star Marketing in late 2016 and launched his new site in April 2017. Since launch, the company is already seeing indicators from the new website that positively impact productivity, sales, and client retention. A few of these include:

  • Increases in direct traffic to the site
  • Fewer visitors leaving the site (lower bounce rates)
  • And a significant increase in mobile visitor engagement

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Jordan Celebrates 3 Years at NSM!

Slow, sure growth is a sign of a healthy plant with the strength and roots to flourish for many years. Three years ago today, Jordan Buckhalt joined the NSM creative services department as a budding graphic designer. It’s been wonderful to see him grow.

Jordan, what’s the best thing you learned this year?

For the last six months, for 20 hours of my spare time outside of work every week, I’ve been in the midst of a deep dive course on user experience. I’m close to my certification now, and it’s been amazing to start applying what I’m learning at work. Today, I have a much better understanding of the data that helps us understand our clients’ end users that we design for in our work. When we can tie what we learn about them to the goals of our clients, that alignment has strong potential! 

What’s one project you’re particularly proud to share?

We finished an e-book project for one of our newest K-12 school clients recently that I really enjoyed working on. Since we got to build it from the ground up, there was a lot of room for creative development and to make the design work for their needs and goals.

Outside of work, what have you been excited about these days?

[Laughs.] My wife and I joined a YMCA volleyball league and that’s been fun. We’ve been doing that with our small group from church. Early season predictions had us finishing fourth out of four teams, but we finished in third place. Also, [fellow designer] Bryan has continued to get me into plants. It’s turning into a greenhouse around here with lots of greenery and succulents and that’s been fun. They remind me of the ways I see NSM growing, too, and it has been good to see, good to be a part of that.

We’re grateful to have you to work alongside, Jordan! Thanks for who you are and all you do for our clients and team. Happy Workiversary #3!

5 Key Questions for Choosing a School Mascot

If I were to say to you, “Lions and tigers and bears,” you’d likely respond with “oh my!” and have a yellow brick road in your mind’s eye. However, if I were to say “Detroit Lions, Clemson Tigers and Chicago Bears,” you’d likely either growl or grin, depending on your loyalties. And your mind’s eye would likely picture an energetic mascot surrounded by crazy sports fans. 

I daresay everyone has a favorite mascot, whether it’s from a local high school, a collegiate team or the insurance gecko. A mascot is a visual representation of a group’s culture, and today, we’re talking about school mascots.

Source: North Star Marketing

Mascots should generate excitement and inspire loyalty from parents, alumni, athletes, middle schoolers, and kindergarteners. Fans should be proud to proclaim, “I’m a Hillcrest Raven!” because the mascot gives them a sense of belonging to a greater group. Read More

These 6 SEO Basics Will Help Improve Your School’s Search Rankings

We recently published an article that discussed the decline in click-through-rates on organic searches and proposed some solutions for regaining that visibility. While it’s true that Google routinely pushes down organic search results in favor of Google Ad placements and other search engine results page (SERP) features, having your school rank well in organic search is still an unignorable part of your digital marketing strategy.

“Organic search remains the fuel you need to establish sustained long-term growth.”

Of the nearly 20 K-12 private school clients whose digital marketing efforts we oversee, all of them see the overwhelming majority of their traffic come to their website through organic search. So, yes, while the Google Ads platform and SERP feature optimization are important cogs in your digital marketing machine, organic search remains the fuel you need to establish sustained long-term growth for your website traffic and, ultimately, your school’s enrollment.  Read More

Commit to Excellence: Don’t Settle for a Mediocre Seat

Commit to Excellence is the core value we begin with at North Star Marketing. It is also where we always return to start again because our core values are not a disconnected list of abstractions we love. They are each a part of an ongoing process that informs every corner of our work. Our creative director, Rob McDorman, deeply understands this commitment and process, and we can’t think of a better, more humble spokesperson for our leading core value.

Think about shopping for a chair. At some point, we’ve all gone looking for just the right one, either for the office or some room in our house. You don’t buy the first one you see or sit in. You probably do not buy the twentieth one you try out. You probably need to sit in a lot of chairs before you find the one you want. 

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Reclaiming Online Visibility in 2019 [3 Critical Strategies]

“We want to rank first for that keyword.”

If you run a small business, I’m sure you’ve had that thought. It’s a great goal to have. And yes, ranking first for a specific term has its advantages.

But it also doesn’t mean what it used to. Take a quick look on Google today, and you’ll find that first position organic search results are now pushed down the page and below the fold by ads, local map packs, and other Search Engine Results Page (SERP) features. It’s likely your prospects could search Google for a keyword you rank well for, but never see your company’s listing! 

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How to Win Local Searches with Google My Business in 2019

Google My Business Set UpWhether investigating private school options or searching locally for quality running socks, the first place people go to is Google. Your school or company may provide the exact service or product someone is searching for, but without an accurate and optimized Google My Business listing, there’s a chance you’ll be invisible when they look for you online.

The presence and quality of your Google My Business (GMB) local listing has become a vital differentiator to gain visibility in Google search results. If Google recognizes your business as a top contender in the search, the GMB listing appears at the top of a search result on mobile or the right-hand side of a desktop search result.

Your GMB information goes beyond the listing itself; it also connects other places your business is listed online and is seen as the main hub of your business’s official online presence. For instance, Google now displays and provides a direct link to your Facebook reviews or Yelp pages. An accurate and optimized GMB listing gives your business credibility and visibility. In this post, we’ll talk about how to set up your business’s GMB listing and what information you can and should include in your listing.

How to Claim or Create Your GMB Listing for a Single Location

Create Your Google Account

The first thing you need is a Google account. You can create a Google account either by setting up a new Gmail account, or you can request a Google account using your existing email address. If you already have one, you’re all set!

Claim or Create Your GMB Listing

Once you have a Google account, you need to find out if your business already has a GMB listing. Google may have already created one that no one owns, or someone may have claimed your listing at some point in the past. Find out by searching in Google My Business for your business name and address using the directions below.

  1. Go to Google My Business. If you’ve never logged in to Google My Business, you can follow these steps to sign up for free. 
  2. Search for your business using its name and address.Google My Business Setup
  3. If you see a dialog box letting you know that someone else has verified the business, follow these steps.Google My Business Set Up
  4. If you don’t see your business listed in the menu, click No, these are not my businesses or I’ve correctly entered the business. You’ll then be asked to enter some of your business details. Make sure you enter an accurate, complete street address, and a phone number which reaches your business directly.
  5. Click Submit.

If you’re setting this up through your mobile device, you can use the mobile directions.

5 Essential Details You Need in Your Google My Business Listing

Your GMB listing is often the first thing prospects will see when searching for your products or services. For many, they will see your listing before visiting your website.  Here are the things you should include in your GMB listing to improve your chances of being seen by potential new customers:

1. Your Business Name, Address, Phone Number, and Website

Your business name, address and phone number, otherwise known as NAP, should be consistent across all your business listings on the web. In other words, your business NAP should be listed the same way everywhere, to avoid confusion for search engines and your visitors.Google My Business Set Up

Your business name should reflect the real-world name your customers use. Don’t add extra information to your business name (like your city or services), as that will already be displayed in your map location and services description.

See Google’s guidelines for how to list your business name, address, and phone number accurately.

On top of your NAP, adding your main URL to Google My Business is imperative as users on Google Maps will be able to quickly navigate to your website from your GMB listing.

Note: If your business has multiple locations, they should all be set up as separate listings, but under the same GMB account.

2. Business Category

The business category you select for your Google My Business listing will contribute to how you rank in Google’s search results. There may be multiple categories you feel are a match, but Google will view the first one you select as your primary category. So, select the category that most broadly and accurately describes your service(s).

See more from Google on how to decide which category you should list and what to do if you feel multiple categories describe your business.

3. Photos & Videos

Photos that illustrate your business’s service, products, and location will help enhance your Google My Business presence. It’s important to make sure the photos attached to your listing are up-to-date, high quality, and feature aspects of your business you’d like potential customers to see.Google My Business Setup

In 2018, Google enabled a new feature that allows video uploads to your Google My Business listing. This is a great opportunity to showcase your business before a prospect even gets to your site. Product and service overview videos, customer testimonial videos, and other audience-ready video content are all great ways to engage users. Check out Google’s guide on types of photos and file specification requirements.

4. Reviews

The reviews section of your Google My Business listing is one of the main things prospective customers will look at. Studies show that 84% of people trust online reviews as much as their friends. So, it’s imperative that you have a strategy in place to build a regular influx of reviews from new and loyal customers.

Note that Google does display a roundup of reviews they find from other places on the web (e.g. Facebook), but prioritizes their own reviews, so getting reviews submitted directly to Google should be a priority. See some tips from Google on how to get GMB reviews.

5. Hours

Google displays your businesses hours prominently on your GMB listing. You can set them so that they update to let visitors know when you’re open or closed, or if your hours might vary on a holiday. Make sure your hours are accurate for all seven days of the week and update them any time your hours may change.

Add-Ons To Make Your Google My Business Listing Stand Out


One of the newer features on GMB, Google Posts, offers a new way to highlight your business to searchers. You can add events, offers, pictures and videos to make your listing stand out.

Google also allows you to add calls-to-action (CTAs) to your posts. Are you highlighting a product? Add a “Buy Now” button to your post. Introducing a new service you are offering? Use the “Learn More” button to link to a service overview page.  See how to create a post on your GMB listing. Here is an example of how one of North Star Marketing’s school clients leverages Google My Business to promote their annual open house.Google My Business Setup

Questions & Answers  

GMB now has a Questions and Answers section that lets people ask questions about your business on the listing. The answers can be provided by you or others familiar with your business. Business owners or listing managers should ask and answer questions customers might have, such as, “Does your restaurant have high chairs?” or “What is the student-to-teacher ratio at your school ?”  Here are some tips from Google on how to keep these questions and answers on track and helpful to potential customers.

Payment Types

Google lets you list what payment methods are accepted, including types of credit cards, and even new payment methods like Apple Pay. Keep your payments section up-to-date as technology changes so that customers know how they can buy your products or services.


Google My Business has a messaging feature which allows people to contact you in real-time. This allows you to connect with a customer within seconds of them reaching out and answer whatever questions they might have. One important note – you should only enable messaging if you or someone else at your business is able to respond. Customers expect quick responses, and Google My Business includes your average response time to customers in your listing. Learn how to let customers message you through GMB.

Note: Messaging through Google My Business is only available in select countries.

Booking Button

For specific categories, Google offers a booking button that appears on your GMB listing. This allows customers to book an appointment directly from the listing. Learn more from Google about how the booking button can help your business.

Your GMB listing brings online credibility to your business and as a result, helps you reach your target audience who is searching for products or services you offer. There are a lot of ways to optimize your GMB listing depending on your products or services. Optimizing well can help your business get great exposure on Google.

Ready to Maximize Your Google Presence?

Are you ready to take control of your Google presence and start winning local search traffic through Google My Business? You can walk through the steps outlined above to claim and build out your listing.  Or, if you’re curious about the current status of your local search presence, you can request a free local search audit from North Star’s team of experts. If you have any additional questions about improving your Google My Business listing, don’t hesitate to leave us a comment. You may also contact us at 336.229.6610 or to speak with one of our marketing specialists!


See What the WordPress Gutenberg Update Means for Your Website

WordPress is an amazing Content Management System (CMS) that powers websites across a wide variety of industries.  In fact, more than 30 percent of the top 10,000 websites run on WordPress. It is open source, meaning that it is free to use and hundreds of developers donate their time to keep the platform safe, secure, and fast.  Our development team at North Star Marketing consists of a few developers that help give back to that community through volunteering time and speaking at WordPress Meetups and WordCamps all over the country.

Getting Ready for the New Gutenberg WordPress Update

North Star has helped hundreds of clients – from schools, colleges, and healthcare networks to banks, accounting firms, and manufacturers – reach key audiences through engaging websites that are built on the WordPress platform.  We’re making sure all of the websites we host continue to function seamlessly when the next major update to WordPress, Version 5.0, is rolled out in the next month. If your website currently utilizes WordPress, keep reading to learn what to expect with this latest update.

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Why VirCon6 is a Must for School Marketers


If you’re in education marketing or admissions, don’t miss this virtual conference.

I first became aware of Brendan Schneider through my friend, Rick Newberry (a.k.a. “Globetrotter,” a.k.a. “Selfie Samurai”), an enrollment consultant who has worked with hundreds of schools across the U.S. and beyond to help them boost their numbers in a sustainable way.

As I’ve followed Brendan over the years, I’ve come to appreciate why he’s a go-to source for so many marketing and enrollment professionals. He’s not speaking out of theory. He’s practicing his craft as Director of Advancement at Sewickley Academy in the Greater Pittsburgh Area. And he gets results.

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