How Mobile Site Speed Affects Your Google Rank

Google recently announced that mobile site speed will be more important than ever when it comes to ranking.

On July 9, Google updated a previously released statement to say, “Studies show that people really care about the speed of a page. Although speed has been used in ranking for some time, that signal was focused on desktop searches. Today we’re announcing that starting in July 2018, page speed will be a ranking factor for mobile searches.”

This “Speed Update” will only affect pages that deliver slow user experience, but may not effect slow pages with useful content.

Because our mission at Sparq Designs has always been to form relationships between people and brands, we believe in helping brands improve their mobile web presence. If you’d like to see if your mobile site is at jeopardy to lose rankings due to site speed, we will audit it for you free of charge. Please fill out the form here (don’t forget your email!) and we will follow up with a site speed audit and other areas of mobile opportunity.

There is no obligation to sign up for our services – we’re simply here to help. We hope you take advantage of this service and that you continue to find the best ways to connect with your audience.

Happy ranking!


3 ways to make the new Facebook algorithm work for you, not against you

Since the 2016 election, Facebook has been challenged with many crises like the fake news epidemic and the rise of unwanted branded content in the news feed.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook Founder, and CEO, deemed this algorithm shift necessary to ultimately better the user experience for Facebook. Here’s his vision:

Our focus in 2018 is making sure Facebook isn’t just fun, but also good for people’s well-being and for society. We’re doing this by encouraging meaningful connections between people rather than passive consumption of content. Already last quarter, we made changes to show fewer viral videos to make sure people’s time is well spent. In total, we made changes that reduced time spent on Facebook by roughly 50 million hours every day. By focusing on meaningful connections, our community and business will be stronger over the long term.

As a business who markets on Facebook, it’s easy to see this change as a threat. But it isn’t, it’s a challenge to adapt and find new, more authentic ways to reach your consumers.

Here are three ways to ensure your Facebook strategy appeals to the Facebook algorithm.

Ask your followers to choose “see first”

At first when this recommendation began flooding the internet in response to the algorithm chaos, it seemed spammy and uncomfortable.

Upon further thought, this is just a new call-to-action to incorporate into your content. If you were asking people to comment to answer a question (which is now frowned upon), you are now asking them to view your content first if they are committed to your brand. This means… more engagement from dedicated brand followers.

One way to casually ask your followers to choose the “see first” option is to use casual rhetoric and offer a vague incentive such as: If you want to see exclusive coupons and specials first, make sure you choose to see (insert brand) first on our page. 

Engagement no-nos

We lightly mentioned not to ask your followers to engage with superficial call-to-actions like: Like, share and comment if you love Sparq Designs! The algorithm is going to demote individual posts from people and Pages that use engagement bait.

Here are other prior engagement hacking tactics that will be demoted by the new algorithm:

  • Clickbait
  • Spammy links in posts
  • Repetitive/repeated posts
  • Posts that ask for likes/comments/shares (ask us for suggestions on new call-t0-actions for Facebook giveaways)
  • Overly promotional content

Local businesses…rejoice!

In an effort to combat fake news, Facebook will be favoring local news content in the algorithm.

On January 29, 2018, Zuckerberg put out a statement highlighting this immediate change:

People consistently tell us they want to see more local news on Facebook. Local news helps us understand the issues that matter in our communities and affect our lives. Research suggests that reading local news is directly correlated with civic engagement. People who know what’s happening around them are more likely to get involved and help make a difference.

If you are trying to reach a geo-targeted audience around your location, it is time to invest in online marketing tactics like: news release distribution, strategic campaign implementation and blogger outreach. These efforts will offer newsworthy content to local sources, which will ultimately be favored in the newsfeed.

Video is your best friend

Facebook has been favoring video for a while now, but uniquely-curated video content will be even more valuable in the new algorithm. Don’t let articles that say “video won’t be favored in the new algorithm” fool you. Now videos from your friends and pages you follow will take precedence over videos from viral, unrelated sources that often get caught up in the everyday news feed.

Facebook’s goal has always been to connect users with each other by creating meaningful interactions. Viral videos don’t necessarily engage users, however, there are other ways to keep the momentum going.

Hack the algorithm with live video

We have been hosting live video events for our client, Bellissimo Plastic Surgery & Medi Spa, since April 2017. This strategic tactic has proved to offer meaningful interaction between Facebook users, and Bellissimo’s board-certified plastic surgeon, Dr. Antimarino. This emphasis on meaningful interactions is what allows Facebook live events to fit into the algorithm changes.

Choose a spokesperson for your business, and host a live event yourself to see the results, or reach out and we can help you.

At Sparq, one of our main initiatives is to change the way people relate and connect with brands. As the 2018 Facebook algorithm change continues to be implemented, we can help your brand adapt to the changes with authentic content and social media strategy. Learn more.
Sparq Designs is a full-service marketing agency based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Sparq Designs caters to clients of all industries, but specifically in the medical, sports & entertainment, and consumer world. 2018 is Sparq’s fifth year in business. Since 2013, Sparq has grown rapidly into a team of 16+ employees. Sparq Designs’ services include but are not limited to: Web Design, Web Development, Search Engine Optimization, Graphic Design, Social Media Management, Email Marketing and Video Production.


4 of the Most Unique Holiday Advertisements Thus Far

Thanksgiving has passed, and now it’s time to jump into the holiday season. Businesses and corporations have already dove headfirst into the 2016 holiday season with new ideas and holiday advertisements that aren’t easily forgotten. Here are just a few of our favorite holiday commercials so far:

Apple uses Frankenstein to symbolize unity during the holidays

In the words of our senior project manager, Adele: “So cute. Want to die,” this Apple commercial really tugged at our team’s heart strings. When the little girl decided to join in with Frankie’s singing, we couldn’t help but tear up.

Aside from the adorable story line, the ending of Frankenstein’s anecdote really brought the advertisement full circle. Ending with the words “Open your heart to everyone,” Apple’s advertisement touched upon the current political atmosphere. Apple has a history of focusing in on unity in their advertisements like in their Human Family advertisement that spotlighted a Maya Angelou poem about global diversity.

With the current animosity post-election, this advertisement not only promotes Apple products, but encourages the acceptance of everyone despite background or ethnicity.

Xfinity bridges the gap with technology and different generations during the holidays

Beginning with a “celebrity reads mean tweets” vibe, there is just something hilarious about people reading snide subtweets about themselves. And there is something even funnier about grandparents reading passive aggressive subtweets.

Our VP of digital marketing Kait, loves the interaction between sentiment and humor that makes this advertisement so memorable.

When the grandparents acknowledge their dated lifestyle, they update and equip their homes with Xfinity cable and WiFi. The advertisement symbolizes a gap being closed between the younger generation and older generation, ultimately proving that technology can bring people together for the holidays rather than isolate people on their phones.

Amazon Prime touches on political atmosphere with religious acceptance holiday advertisements

Amazon Prime’s holiday commercial aired at a pivotal time for this country. Although some people may think that a holiday commercial prior to Thanksgiving is a little premature, some critics note the insinuated dig at early November president-elect Donald Trump.

Despite the political criticism of the advertisement, the Amazon Prime ad comments on the recurring holiday theme of bringing  family, friends,and colleagues together to celebrate the holiday season.

Our company president Nick, thinks that the Amazon Prime commercial “was a great way to bridge the cultural gap of religion. Because at the end of the day, we are all just people.”

The advertisement ends with both religious leaders on their knees, praying to their respective belief with the Amazon gift in use.

M&S creates advertisement celebrating Mrs. Claus’ holiday powers

Lastly, on a more lighthearted note, this M&S advertisement shows the feminine boss-lady side of the often forgotten about Mrs. Claus. M&S is an international, multi-channel retailer. Their advertisement exhibits an emotional response, as the little boy in the ad starts out fighting with his sister.

He writes a letter to Mrs. Claus asking for a special gift for his sister. Mrs. Claus sneaks out in her bright red helicopter, and sneaks a gift under their Christmas tree.

Our social media manager, Lizz, appreciates the emphasis behind Mrs. Claus, because in this advertisement Mrs. Claus can do just what Santa does and can make Christmas wishes come true.


These are just some of our favorite holiday advertisements so far. We are looking forward to more memorable ads as the holiday season continues. What holiday ads have stuck out to you?




What impact can a strong Government Brand have on your community?

Utilizing a Powerful Web Presence & SEO for Government organizations

Government, just like any organization or commercial business, must hit the proverbial “reset” button from time to time. The election cycle itself makes it so voters have to select a new voice with fresh ideas every-so-often. Sometimes you’ll notice that a newly elected official will often have to “re-brand” a municipal website to indicate there’s “new government” in town. There will also be the occasional need to shift marketing focus; to change how a city or county markets itself to visitors and residents  looking to buy, rent, or invest in the local region.

Here are a few instances how a strong government website can help your community :

1. Transparency – Citizens today demand greater transparency from elected officials and government. They demand more insight into how their tax dollars are spent. They hold politicians accountable and want reassurance that their elected officials are carrying out day-to-day responsibilities ethically. Thanks to the cloud, local and regional government can post information about their operations and decision-making processes online where it is readily available to the public. Council meetings can also be streamed live, or viewed On Demand, via the Internet to further promote a more “open government” with greater transparency and nothing to hide.

2. Engagement – Government at its best is participatory and collaborative. The Internet is a great way for local government to engage constituents and encourage public feedback, input, and collaboration. If everyone feels involved in policymaking, and shaping the region, it will likely result in a government that’s more in tune with the needs of its citizens and regional businesses.

3. Message Delivery – The Internet gives local government the ability to quickly disburse its messaging to the general public and media. Whether it’s promoting regional attractions, informing residents of programs, services, and job opportunities, or communicating through inclement weather, crime or public safety alerts, the web is the easiest way for government to quickly distribute information to a broad range of people at once.

4. Perception – The way that residents, investors, and people employed in certain regions feel about their county, city, and township means a lot. Often times a website is the first thing that people will check when they search for information. Having a visually appealing and user-friendly government website is a must in today’s digital world. The ability to provide a useful tool and an outlet for investors, residents, and visitors is something that governments need to address as our evolving world continues move at such a fast pace.

We have selected our picks for the best County websites in Pennsylvania:




Google’s Latest Update: How It May Affect Your Rankings

On July 24, Google released its latest search algorithm change. In an ongoing attempt to refine local search results, this update, named “Pigeon” puts more emphasis on the location of the user to refine the search results.

So, what do we know thus far about “Pigeon” and how is it going to affect your SEO results? So far, it seems that local business directories and review sites including: Yelp, Google+, etc., have seen greater visibility in search queries.   After taking a look at our current clients, we were able to see favorable increases in organic traffic after the July 24th update.

Although it is not completely clear how the update will affect rankings, here are some things that you may want to take into consideration as Google aims to improve “location-based searches”:

  1. Verify your  business address with Google Places
  2. Provide as much information about your business in online directories as possible
  3. Make an attempt to increase customer reviews on your Google+ page
  4. Focus on quality content for your web pages–and localize your focus keywords
  5. Look to obtain links from outbound sites to your pages

We will have a better understanding of Google’s algorithm changes in the days and weeks to come.