WordPress 3.8 Update and What It Means for Your Website

December 13th, 2013 by

WordPress 3.8 (named “Parker” in honor of bebop jazz innovator Charlie Parker) was released on December 12. InsideOut Solutions will be rolling out the WordPress 3.8 update to its managed web hosting clients with WordPress websites and blogs over the next few weeks, so expect it to show up soon when you log in.

WordPressYour day-to-day content editing, post publishing, etc. functions as with previous versions, but there is one major difference to previous versions: there’s a new look to the dashboard area.

The WordPress 3.8 Dashboard

The updated look is much cleaner, with fewer distractions like faux 3-D buttons, drop-shadows, etc.  There are some other updates to go along with the new look:

WordPress 3.8 Admin Color Schemes

WordPress allows Users to choose up to 8 different color schemes.  To change your color scheme, edit your User Profile in the WP dashboard.  The colors show near the the top of your Profile page.

Screen Shot 2013-12-13 at 9.26.16 AM

Other WordPress 3.8 Changes

Screen Shot 2013-12-13 at 9.18.40 AM Along with the overall dashboard changes, the way themes are selected is a bit different and the widget editing has been updated.

A great new feature is that the dashboard is designed to be responsive (just like all new websites we design) so that it works much better on mobile devices and tablets.

You should find this new version of WordPress very easy to use, but, should you have any questions, we offer support at our standard $80/hour rate (billed in 15 minute increments). Simply contact us with your questions and to set up a support session.

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WordPress SEO Plugin by Yoast Makes SEO Simple(r) for Our Clients

December 1st, 2013 by

As our clients start to claim their website authorship with Google+ they are also learning about the benefits of upgrading to the WordPress SEO plugin that comes with it.  Even if you aren’t participating in Google+ authorship, you owe it to your website to upgrade to this SEO management tool for WordPress websites.

What Is The WordPress SEO Plugin?

WordPress + WordPress SEO Plugin by Yoast + InsideOut Solutions = Easier SEO

WordPress + WordPress SEO Plugin by Yoast + InsideOut Solutions = Easier SEO for Your Website

Joost de Valk and his WordPress web development team at Yoast developed the WordPress SEO plugin to help make WordPress, already a great content management system for SEO, even better at managing the SEO value of content published to the web.

Why Should I Have It?

SEO management is critical to your website’s search engine visibility, but can become increasingly complicated as you add more content (e.g. blog posts) over time.

InsideOut regularly reviews the WordPress plugins/tools available for various aspects of our clients’ websites. Of all the SEO managment plugins we tested when considering an upgrade for our client websites, as well as our own, WordPress SEO was by far the most intuitive and effective way to manage the SEO value of website content.

How Does the WordPress SEO Plugin Work?

You manage the SEO value of each website page, blog post, and custom post (such as specials, directory listings, etc.) with a single editor, which is located beneath the content editor area of each page or post.

The WordPress SEO plugin uses a color-coded grading system of the various aspects of SEO as it relates to the individual page/post.

  • Green = Good, may need minor work, but only make changes if won’t hurt the user’s experience
  • Yellow = OK – needs moderate work
  • Orange = Poor – needs more work
  • Red = Bad – needs major work
  • Gray = Needs a keyword phrase in order to be evaluated
  • Blue = This page/post is set to not be indexed by search engines (needs to be manually set)

WordPress SEO Plugin score on Publish widget

Your mission, should you choose to accept, is to get your SEO score to show up green.

The overall score of a specific page/post is visible to logged in users with write access and the color coded score is found on:

  1. The page/post’s Publish/Update widget (window in upper right of page/post editor)
  2. The All Posts and All Pages screens (making it easy to view the status of up to 25 pages or posts at a time)
  3. On the top menu of a “live page” when viewed as a logged in user

I have worked up a sample blog post about wine tours on the Olympic peninsula in Washington State to show you how to use the plugin when preparing a blog post for publication.

1. Choose a Focus Keyword Phrase

s SEO Plugin Focus Keyword

Enter your Focus Keyword (page/post topic) to get started

The Focus Keyword phrase you enter becomes the basis of how the plugin:

  • Scores the SEO value of your page or post
  • Provides information and advice on how to improve the SEO value

Always choose the phrase that is most relevant to the topic of your page or post.  This is the most important aspect of SEO.  Don’t try to fit a non-relevant phrase into your page/post content to build visibility for it; write a new page or post about that topic instead.

Once you’ve entered your Focus Keyword phrase, the plugin will automatically evaluate your page/post and score it based on the keywords appearance five components SEO:

  • Article Heading (the title you enter for the page/post when you create it)
  • Page Title (which defaults to the Article Heading)
  • Page URL (which defaults to the Article Heading with dashes between words)
  • Content (the actual text of your page/post)
  • Meta description (which defaults to the first phrase/sentence with the Focus Keyword)

Word Press SEO Plugin yellow score on Puublish widget2. Write the Page/Post Content with the Focus Keyword in Mind

Write your page/post title and the content about your Focus Keyword topic and save the draft.  The WordPress SEO plugin will then show you your score in the Publish widget.

Yellow means OK, but I know I can do better with the help of the WordPress SEO plugin.  Let’s take a look at the results in the WordPress SEO widget:


I managed to get the Focus keyword phrase once each into each of the primary areas, but that wasn’t quite enough to get to green/good.  Here’s how to proceed:

3. Enter a Custom SEO Title and Meta Description

wordpress-seo-plugin-focus-keyword-results-2The SEO Title is the linked title that will appear in search engine results and should prioritize the Focus Keyword by putting it as close to the front of the title as possible.

The Meta Description is the text that appears below the title and URL in search engine results.  By default, WordPress shows the first 156 characters of your page/post.  The WordPress SEO plugin automatically inserts your first phrase/sentence with the Focus Keyword, which is better, but by writing a custom meta description, you can give priority to your Focus Keyword and write a full sentence or two to concisely provide a description of the page/post content.  Again, it’s a good idea to prioritize the Focus Keyword by putting it as close to the front of the meta description as possible.

4. Follow SEO Recommendations

wordpress-seo-plugin-focus-keyword-results-3At this point, you will want to save your page/post and give the plugin a chance to evaluate your work in depth. Once you’ve saved the page/post you will be able to use the Page Analysis tab in the WordPress SEO plugin to get advice for improving the search engine optimization.  Some effective rules of thumb:

  • You should aim to have 300 or more total words for your page/post.  Certainly there are times (video- or photo-based posts) where you might have fewer words, but this is a good rule to follow in general.
  • wordpress-seo-plugin-focus-keyword-results-4Typically, unless you’re writing with SEO in mind, you will need to adjust your keyword density by adding more instances of your Focus Keyword phrase.  Don’t go overboard; keep your density from 1-3%.
  • Use your Focus Keyword phrase in the first paragraph of your page/post.
  • Add a photo/image that is relevant to your Focus Keyword and give it alternative (alt) text with the keyword phrase.  Make sure your first paragraph appears before this photo/image.
  • Add at least one Header 2 that includes your Focus Keyword phrase.
  • Link to other relevant content, both on your website and other websites.

Once you’ve made your edits, save the page post and the plugin will update your score.  You are working at getting your as many of your scores to the green/good range as is feasible.  For new pages/posts, you want to get there prior to publishing so that the search engines will be able to index your content with good SEO value.

Known Issues with the WordPress SEO Plugin

The WordPress SEO plugin is not a perfect tool.  Here are some things to remember:

Ampersands and, well, the Word “And”

This is especially important for our B&B inn clients:

The ampersand symbol (&) cannot be read in page/post content, as WordPress automatically changes this symbol to its HTML equivalent.  I don’t recommend that you avoid using ampersands in Focus Keyword phrases.  After all, “B&B,” “bed & breakfast,” etc. terms will be entered by search engine users and search engines recognize the ampersand symbol.  Just know that you will have a difficult, if not impossible task to get to a green/good score on the page/post.  Use the ampersand phrase with adequate frequency within the content and you’ll be OK.

Similarly, the word “and” (as in bed and breakfast) is considered a stop word by the plugin and will downgrade your score a bit for using it in your Focus Keyword phrase.  Follow other basic SEO practices and you will still easily be able to get to a green/good score.

Changing Authors Alters Page/Post Score

Should you change the author of a page or post (say as part of setting up Google+ authorship) you will find that the WordPress SEO score changes.  Dont fret; go to the page in the editor and update it (your don’t actually have to edit anything) and the score will return to it’s pre-author-change level.

Other Notes and Recommendations

college_girl_on_laptop_iStock_000000698308SmallAlways keep the reader experience in mind – don’t write for what you think the search engines want to see.  Google and other search engines are working toward the goal of delivering query results that match the intent of the user (see the recent Google Hummingbird algorithm upgrade).  Write to the reader and use the WordPress SEO plugin to make sure that you’re using your Focus Keyword phrase properly.

Always check your score after you update an existing page post. Even a minor update to text or a photo change can negatively impact your score.  Save, then look at the SEO score in the Publish widget and edit your SEO as needed to keep it in the good/green range when possible.

How Do I Get the WordPress SEO Plugin?

contact-inside-out-for-wordpress-seo-plugin-and-search-engine-optimizationInsideOut offers this upgrade as a service to our WordPress website hosting clients.  The cost is typically $40 and includes installation of the plugin and optimal configuration of the settings.

This plugin is already set up for clients with ongoing website SEO services and we are working at using the plugin to evaluate and edit the SEO of your website pages.

WordPress website clients who aren’t receiving ongoing SEO services may purchase our SEO Back-On-Track service, which includes Installation of the WordPress SEO plugin and initial SEO on all indexable pages, along with other services.  InsideOut Solutions invite you to contact us for a quote on this SEO service.

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Website Load Speed: Google PageSpeed Insights and More

November 20th, 2013 by

Website load speed is important to your business because it affects the two major components of internet marketing:

  1. It contributes to the value of your website to search engines
  2. It affects the quality of the visit of the internet user accessing your website

Let’s take a look at two tools that measure aspects of website load speed and how you can use them to help you improve your website’s load performance.

Google PageSpeed Insights

Google PageSpeed InsightsGoogle PageSpeed Insights is a free tool from Google to test how well your website stacks up against Google’s ideas on what makes a website load quickly.

There’s a tab for mobile and a tab for desktop so you can see how your site does on each platform. A score of 85 or above gives you a ‘green’ rating, while a score below this is either orange or red. There are various rating items, such as if you have blocking scripts or style sheets that load before the site loads, your general server speed, if you have caching, and other items related to styling.

You can view a score of our website here: http://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/?url=www.insideout.com.  Here is a screen capture:
Screen Shot 2013-11-18 at 2.57.23 PM
At the time of our test we scored 76/100 for mobile and 89/100 for desktop. This means we could use some work on our mobile, but it is not the end of the world.  Consider it a “C” or “average” grade.

How do the items Google PageSpeed Insights identifies affect page load?

This is up for debate.  The items that are marked as important on the PageSpeed tool are valuable indicators of your load times, but they do not directly affect the time it takes to load a page.  Items like image size, html size, and other factors more directly determine overall page load speed.  Google’s tool is a great first place to start, but isn’t the only utility, or metrics, to consider.

Pingdom Website Speed Test

Pingdom Website Speed TestWe recommend you get a bigger picture by adding the Pingdom Website Speed Test.  At the time of our test our website loaded in 1.38 seconds with 435kb of data.  This load time is well below the 3 second mark that the majority of websites try to attain.  Load times will vary from test to test depending on a variety of factors, so you should only be concerned if your site regularly shows a load time greater than 2.5 seconds.

How does Website page speed affect SEO/SEM ranking?

Page speed and load times are important factors in your search result rankings. For an already tough market, you should work towards optimizing your page loads along with standard copywriting and keyword methods of SEO.

My website load speed is poortly rated. How do I fix it?

Each site will be different, but the most important things are:

  • Shrink your image sizes with a photo editor
  • Defer your script calls, or put them in the footer of your site
  • Limit the amount of image calls you have your CSS files and put what CSS you can inline in the header
  • Cache your website and headers
  • Minify all your css files

Don’t know what any of these mean? Talk to your web manager or host and see what they can do for you. InsideOut Solutions offers this as a billable item to current clients. Contact us to find out how we can work with you to get your site speed where it should be.

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Boutique Hotel Website Design & Branding for The Barlow

November 5th, 2013 by

After the purchase and renovation of their historic Hudson, NY building, The Barlow needed a distinctive boutique hotel website design. Owners Duncan Calhoun and Russ Gibson also knew every detail of the branding and marketing would require attention—from pens and mugs, to guest information books and printed brochures. And the marketing for this new venture (in addition to their Croff House and Enchanted Villa properties) had to begin before the renovation was complete.

A hotel logo design for every occasion

The Barlow: a boutique hotel website design by InsideOut Solutions

The Barlow’s boutique hotel website design.

InsideOut started by establishing the basic branding: the logo design, colors, typefaces and overall “look and feel.” The design decisions were influenced by the Art Deco era of the original building and the taste and feedback of the owners. Designer Jim McCauley created a logo that not only had the right look, but was created as a vector graphic for easy use no matter what the application. The logo art was crafted with the flexibility to make its way on pens, key cards, window clings, mugs, wine openers and more…even the front awning. InsideOut’s graphic designers were there along the way to create designs for each item or assist with any technical questions about adapting the logo as needed.

A clean, modern & responsive boutique hotel website design

Once the hotel branding was set, the next order of business was using the established logo, colors and fonts to set up a temporary site. In this way, barlowhotel.com would gain traction in the search engines and also keep interested parties informed on the hotel’s progress.

After months of hard work (plus the inevitable delays of a remodel), Duncan and Russ called in Christian Giannelli to take gorgeous photos showcasing the decor and amenities. With the photos completed, Beth Edwards and her web design team created a boutique hotel website design that matches the feeling of The Barlow. Modern and elegant, the website uses the beautiful photos for greatest effect.


In addition to this brochure, InsideOut’s graphic design work included The Barlow Hotel’s logo design, business cards, key cards, print ads, note pads and guest information book.

Behind the scenes, the site is also up-to-date…it’s HTML 5-compliant, has been optimized for search and features a responsive web design that immediately resizes whether the viewer is on mobile, an iPad or a laptop. The social media bar appearing on the bottom of every page makes it easy for visitors to promote the hotel via Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and Pinterest. This custom-coded site uses three new plugins which make it easy to add or update the rooms, homepage slideshow and photo galleries. Duncan and Russ can make updates on their own or they can contact the team at InsideOut to make changes.

The Barlow Hotel graphic design of print collateral

A brand new hotel needs a host of printed materials. InsideOut’s graphic design team took care of the layout and printing of branded business cards, note pads and brochures. The interior pages of the guest information book were designed to allow Russ and Duncan to update the information and to print new pages as needed. Their 12″ x 9″ trifold brochures are distributed via a display box just outside the hotel and through local visitor information centers. The brochure’s clean design matches the website and provides rates, a QR code, map, and large photos to entice a stay at this beautiful Hudson hotel.

Looking for a Boutique Hotel Website Design & Graphics Provider?

InsideOut Solutions has been designing effective websites and print marketing for the specialty lodging and destinations since 1997.  We invite you to review our portfolio of lodging website designs, branded sets, graphic design, and more.  You are welcome to contact us to learn more about how InsideOut can help you improve your web and print marketing efforts.

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Google Hummingbird: What It Means for Lodging Providers & Destinations

October 29th, 2013 by

The Google Hummingbird algorithm has remained at the forefront of internet search news since it was officially announced at the end of September as part of Google’s 15th anniversary celebration.

Google logo

Hummingbird Google Hummingbird, the creators say, represents a major improvement in the quality of search results.

With two months of “live search results,” what do we know about Google Hummingbird?  The answer is, quite frankly, just a little.  The official announcement also revealed that Hummingbird had been launched by Google on August 30 of this year.  There was virtually no speculation of changes at Google by search marketers during its initial, “secret” month of use and there’s been little reported effects in the lodging and destination market since its announcement.

What we do know is what Google is claiming about its new algorithm.  From that, we can at least speculate on how it will affect search marketing efforts.  Let’s look at what Google has stated:

1. Google Hummingbird Is a New Algorithm

Unlike Panda and Penguin, which were updates to an existing algorithm, Google Hummingbird is an all-new algorithm that, according to Google, represents a major shift in how Google evaluates web content.  Google search chief Amit Singhal told Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land that Hummingbird is the largest algorithm rewrite since 2001.

2. Google Hummingbird Does Use Some “Parts” of the Previous Algorithm


Google Panda is still on patrol for low quality content.

adelie penguin

Google Penguin is still on patrol for low quality links.

Although it is a “new” algorithm, Google Hummingbird will make use of components of the previous algorithm that have demonstrated their value, which makes sense since there are things about the old algorithm that remain relavent.

Specifically, both the Panda and Penguin components have been retained, as evidenced by Matt Cutts’ announcement of the release of Google Penguin 2.1 and the confirmation of recent changes to Google Panda to “soften” its affect on search results.

3. Google Hummingbird Is Better at Evaluating Queries and Content by Its “Intent”

Google Hummingbird reportedly does a better job of evaluating each word, separately and in conjunction, in a query in order to ensure that the whole phrase is taken into account when serving up results.  Therefore, the “intent” of the results (website content) should better match the “intent” of the query.

Examples of Google Hummingbird in Action

Google has not provided a way to compare results of the previous algorithm vs. Hummingbird.  Instead, they’ve provided some examples of how results have changed:

  1. Search phrase: “pizza hut calories per slice” – Google used to display this result as #1, but Hummingbird now recognizes Pizza Hut as an authority on its own product and shows its website result at #1 (unless something in your personalization would get in the way, I suppose).
  2. Search phrase: “pay your bills through citizens bank” - Google used to show the Citizens Bank home page as #1 and now shows the payment page as #1.

I’ve seen some changes amongst our clients’ sites as well.  Pages with content specific to queries are now appearing higher than the home page in Google’s raw search results, so that’s a good thing.  It’s not consistent, so there is still a lot to learn and we’ll be here to provide our findings as time goes one.

4. Google Hummingbird Is Not The Death of SEO


SEO remains an essential building block for effective internet marketing.

Just as with any change at Google, speculation about “this is the end of SEO” runs rampant with the announcement of Google Hummingbird.  That’s hyperbole at best and fear-mongering at worst.  Matt Cutts and others at Google have advised that SEO providers should continue what they’ve always done: find the best way to deliver quality content.

It’s always true to say that SEO is evolving.  In this case, it appears that Google Hummingbird, if it lives up to its promises, is actually great news for those who practice effective content marketing on their website.

How Lodging and Destinations Can Make the Most of Google Hummingbird

I believe that, should Hummingbird live up to the hype, bed & breakfast inns, boutique hotels, dude ranches, chambers of commerce and related industries now have an opportunity to be more competitive in content marketing for their specific market.  Google is giving more weight to:

  1. Authority, as evidenced by the “Pizza Hut” example
  2. Results matching intent of the query, as evidenced by the “Citizens Bank” example.

In short: you have a better chance of having your well-written, authoritative, socially engaging content rank highly for highly specific keyword phrases if you follow this strategy:

  • Strive to become the authority of the Unique Selling Point (USP) of the content you publish – this is becoming more crucial on all search engines.  For Google that also means that establishing Google+ authorship. At the recent Pubcon Las Vegas, Google confirmed authorship is growing in importance in determining authority.
  • Write content worthy of reader response - social media components of your content (comments, reviews, likes, shares, etc.) will become more of a factor to rank.

There will be more to learn as we see long-term results come in, but, for now, Google Hummingbird is nothing to fear if you are already engaged in effective content marketing.  Contact InsideOut Solutions if you want help starting or evaluating your search marketing efforts.

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Bookmark Graphic Design for Hart’s Fine Books

October 23rd, 2013 by

Our bread-and-butter print graphic design here at InsideOut are the “must have” print pieces in the lodging and destination industry: business cards and rack cards. We also design brochures, product labels, menus, visitor maps and even billboards and outdoor banners for bed and breakfasts, dude ranches and other businesses and organizations. Occasionally, we get a chance to do something different: bookmark graphic design, which is a very handy and low-cost print marketing piece. Our newest local client, Hart’s Fine Books, was in need of just such a product. Hart's bookmark graphic design

Our Bookmark Design for a Book Dealer

Hart’s Fine Books sells vintage and rare books. They have a charming store in Sequim, WA and will also have an online bookstore.

This bookmark graphic design was actually simple when you think about the product. Vintage books already feature beautifully designed covers and intricate gold and embossed graphics and type. A book’s spine is narrow and tall—the perfect shape for a bookmark. Once we found the right photo, all we needed was just a little graphic manipulation to achieve the vintage book spine that would become the bookmark’s design.

The back of the bookmark contains the logo and all the contact info and a quote by Marcus Tullius Cicero that any book lover would agree with, “A room without a book is like a body without a soul.”

Considerations for Effective Bookmark Graphic Design

Bookmark standard sizes are 1.5 to 2.5 inches wide by 7 to 9 inches tall. They need to be on a fairly heavy cover stock to do what they do—mark your place in a book.

A simple bookmark costs little to produce, yet it can get your business’ information to customers and prospects in a format that they’ll find useful enough to hold onto. A ruler, measurement conversions, or a favorite recipe are great examples that lend themselves to a bookmark shape. On the reverse side of the bookmark, be sure to include your contact information, services and a QR code for quick access to your website.

If you’ve been considering adding a bookmark to your printed pieces, or if you are looking to update any of your print materials, have a look at our print graphic design services and contact us for more information.

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WordPress Website + Managed Hosting = Effective Internet Marketing Platform

September 30th, 2013 by

A WordPress website, along with design and managed hosting from InsideOut Solutions, creates a strong foundation for your online marketing.

A WordPress website, along with design and managed hosting from InsideOut Solutions, creates a strong foundation for your online marketing.

Occasionally, our current and potential clients will submit their concerns about having a WordPress website.  Often these concerns are raised when a website Content Management System (CMS) provider publishes a blog post, email newsletter or other article denouncing WordPress as a website platform in order to convince readers that they offer a better alternative with their own CMS.

While it’s true that a WordPress website isn’t ideal for every business, InsideOut Solutions has proven that WordPress combined with our quality website design and managed hosting services create an effective and affordable internet marketing platform for its clients in the unique lodging and related industries.  Whether you own a B&B inn, dude ranch, cabin resort, boutique hotel or motel, or vacation rentals, you owe it to yourself to learn more about WordPress and why it is such a powerful foundation for websites.

Keep reading →

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Luxurious and Rustic at Silver Ridge Resort

September 24th, 2013 by

New website for Silver Ridge Resort, using our Horizon theme

New website for Silver Ridge Resort, using our Horizon theme

Silver Ridge Resort – you may recognize the name as being similar to another InsideOut Solutions client, Sugar Ridge Resort. Located in the same town, these Eureka Springs cabins have the same owner but with distinctly different lodging options.

At Silver Ridge, enjoy the intimacy of your own log cabin nestled among over 100 acres of private woodlands. From small cabins catering to 2 people, or large cabins for up to 8, this is the perfect solution for a romantic getaway or even a family get together. Located just minutes away from Eureka Springs, you’re close to restaurants and shopping but also free to enjoy the peace and quiet that their location provides.

The amount of content needed for the Silver Ridge website was small enough to fit into one of our concept templates. With some great timing, we had just finished our new concept theme, Horizon, when it was time to work on Silver Ridge! This theme is very customizable, so we were able to tailor the look to be both clean in its design, but rustic in its accents. The theme allows us to showcase the great photos we were given, and is also responsive so it scales with the size of your browser window. It will look just as great on your phone as it does on your computer!

If you’d like to hear more about our concept themes or even talk about getting a custom site design for your business, contact us for a quote!

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Roam the beaches of North Fork at Shorecrest Bed and Breakfast

August 26th, 2013 by

Shorecrest Bed and Breakfast on North Fork is surrounded by the waters of the Long Island Sound and an inlet of Shelter Bay. They are well known for their beautifully landscaped acre of flower gardens with fish ponds and lounge chairs for their guests to relax. They also manage a series of vacation rentals on the North Fork, each with distinct personality.

Shorecrest Bed and Breakfast

A nautical website for Shorecrest Bed and Breakfast

Having been a client of InsideOut for many years, Shorecrest Bed and Breakfast finally decided to take the leap to a gorgeous new updated website. They are able to display full information about the b&b, gardens, private beaches, and five rooms, as well as individual pages for each vacation rental. The site invokes a modernized nautical theme.

We strive to ensure that our custom website designs reflect the true personality of your business, and highlight what makes you unique. If you are interested in a free website quote, contact us today!

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