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Business Website Design

Business Website Design

4 Reasons You Need a Mobile Website

Posted 1:09 PM by

Mobile Websites with Marketpath CMSA mobile website or mobile ready website is simply an internet site optimized for viewing on mobile devices or smartphones such as the iPhone, Android or Blackberry.  Because mobile gadgets are smaller than computers (with smaller screens), full websites are often difficult to view and navigate via mobile devices.  

Mobile websites provide a better way for consumers to learn about your organization when they’re on-the-go and typically consist of a “stripped down” version of a website, with less information, prioritized or more important to the mobile user.

Visit the Internet Marketing Dictionary for a detailed definition of a mobile website.
 

So why should your organization develop a mobile site? 

  1. Because your current site doesn’t work well or look correct on mobile devices

I mentioned this briefly above.  And while it may be obvious, it is also the most significant reason you should consider a mobile site.  Maybe the fonts are too small, or the images too large, or the navigation and layout are too complex or awkward.  Roll over menus that work and look great when viewing from a computer, might be tedious or impossible to use via mobile.  Or, possibly, the site downloads painfully slow on a mobile device.  Regardless of the reason, if your prospect or customer can’t easily use your site or find what they’re looking for (without getting frustrated), they may just try your competitor’s easier to use mobile site!

  1. The needs & behavior of a mobile web user are different from a traditional Internet user

While it is critical that your site be easy to view and navigate via mobile, it is also important to realize how mobile users are different from traditional computer web users.  Phone or mobile users are often away from their home or office (or at least away from their computers), with less time to spend surfing or looking for information.  Many times, they have a goal in mind and are looking for very specific information such as a location, news or event, contact, map, product, or schedule.  And often, they only have a few minutes to find what they want.

Because of these differences, your mobile design needs to focus on simplicity, presenting prioritized content that is relevant for the mobile user.  The Mobile Marketing Association suggests a less-is-more design philosophy for mobile web sites, focusing on the 3-5 most important reasons someone will visit your mobile site, and making those items visible upon entry, at the top menu level.  Eliminating side-scrolling and reducing down-scrolling also enhances ease-of-use via mobile.

  1. Mobile internet use is growing rapidly!Mobile Website Statistics

Whether you like it or not, more and more people will be accessing your website via mobile devices.  In fact, as of last month (July 2011), 50% of all connections to the internet are from phones and mobile devices

Microsoft Tag recently developed the infographic to the right to summarize the explosion of the mobile web, which is already a large market, but growing more rapidly by the minute.  If you are still skeptical as to the importance of the mobile web, I’ve included a number of interesting statistics.

  • 70% of the world’s population now have a mobile phone; 87% in the U.S. (per Experian)
  • U.S. children are now more likely to own a mobile phone than a book, with 85% of kids owning a phone as to 73% having books! (National Literacy Trust)
  • 55% of US consumers who purchased a new phone in 2011 bought a smartphone, up from the 34% last year (Nielsen)
  • 38% of US consumers owned a smartphone as of May 2011
  • Daily internet usage via handheld devices jumped from 29% in 2009 to 43% in 2010
  • In the last year Google has seen a 400% increase in the number of mobile searches
  • The #1 access method for local information is now the mobile browser

Despite the growing importance of mobile, less than 5% of businesses have mobile enabled websites today.  In fact, 50% of small businesses have never even checked the appearance or functionality of their site on a Smart Phone!

  1. It’s fairly easy to create a mobile website

Assuming the functionality and content from your current site are up to snuff (you know what they say about ASS-U-ME), creating a mobile website is reasonably easy.  This is especially true with tools like Marketpath CMS, or other web content management solutions, that allow you to leverage both your existing website content and content management processes, without having to start from scratch or add new processes to update your mobile site.

Marketpath allows you to easily manage your mobile websites within Marketpath CMS, updating content for both your regular and mobile sites at the same time, while delivering to traditional and mobile formats.

So why not give mobile users what they want and enhance your brand equity and reputation at the same time?

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5 Free Online Marketing Tools for Your Business

Posted 1:00 PM by

Free Online Marketing Tools for Your BusinessAs an individual running the sales and marketing department for a small business, I am always looking for cost effective ways to enhance my knowledge and ability to market, while keeping costs down.  The great thing about being in business today is that there are lots of free online marketing tools and resources that can both educate and provide usefulness to an online marketer.

Below are my first five (5) free tools that any small business marketer should be aware of and possibly using regularly in their day to day marketing.  Next month I'll list of another group of free, useful tools for your business.

1.  Google Alerts

I'll start with a simple, but very useful tool that has been around a long time- Google Alerts.  Google Alerts allows you to sign up for free email updates on the latest (and relevant) Google results for whatever keyword/topic (business, product, technology, individual, etc.) you wish to follow.  Then, when your keyword shows up in Google, you get an email with the new information sent to you. 

This is an amazingly easy and valuable tool that allows you to monitor the web for new news, PR, website updates, and more.   I use it for tracking information on my own company, competitors, customers, industry trends, research and general topics that I what to stay on top of.  Below is an example of an alert I received for "Marketpath," letting me know that our press release had been picked up and posted on an industry technology website.

Google Alert - Marketpath Named 2011 Innovation of the Year Finalist

You can also be creative and use Google Alerts as a marketing tool, to drive traffic to your own website.  Think about it- it makes sense.  Every time you post content on your website with a certain keyword (phrase), Google will send an automated alert to everyone who subscribed to Google Alerts for that keyword. The individual subscribed to the alert, because the keyword is relevant to them. If your content (post, PR, etc.) is also relevant for the keyword, Google Alerts will connect your site to that highly pertinent reader of your content.  Check out this article for more information.
 

2.  RANKS.NL Keyword Density Tool

This is a great tool that provides lots of useful information about any website or web page, in regards to how the site or specific page is optimized for search (SEO).  Just type in your company's URL or the URL of a competitor or related industry site, and you'll get good data about how that site is viewed by Google and other search engines.  Information includes:

  • Key words and phrases it looks like the site is optimized for
  • Keyword density for those phrases
  • Google page ranking for any term the site ranks for
  • Links in and out of the site
  • Google's PageRank for the site
  • Alexa's site rankings
  • Site load times

If you are a novice to all things SEO, the information on this site will help you learn.   If you already have some basic SEO and key word experience, RANKS.NL will provide insight and ideas into how best to optimize your site for search and how other sites (competitors, industry sites) are hoping to compete for different keywords.

3.  Google Analytics

One of the great thing about interactive marketing and the web is that it allows markers to more easily measure their marketing activities and results.  Yet, even in 2011, many small businesses don't pay attention to what is happening on their website.  With Google Analytics, tracking your website marketing is both free and easy.

In simple terms, web analytics will let you know who has visited your site, what they did when they were there, and where they came from.  More importantly, it will tell you how your prospects found you (which sites and key words), what content they value, and whether you converted them to leads or sales once they got to your site.  By properly utilizing Google or other analytics tools, you'll be able to understand both your visitors and which initiatives are impacting them.  Combine that knowledge with a web content management system that allows for quick and easy changes to your site, and you'll be on your way to improving your marketing bottom line.   

Google Analytics isn't quite as simple as some of the other tools on this list (you'll need the analytics code put on each page of your site), but it is probably the MVT (most valuable tool) of free online tools.  Google also provides great resources to quickly get you up to speed.  For starters, try the Google Analytics product tour.

4.  Pressrelease.grader.com

If your business ever produces press releases and utilizes them to generate website traffic or as part of your search optimization (SEO) strategy, then you should take a look at Hubspot's free tool.  PressReleaseGrader evaluates your press releases and provides you with a marketing effectiveness score for that release.  It also provides details as to which elements your release contains or is missing that might impact its effectiveness, including links, content, and key words.

5.  Google Places (Local Business Listings)

If you want people (customers, prospects, vendors) to find your business, based on where it is located, then your business should be listed on Google Places.  If you are not currently listed then you may already be at a competitive disadvantage.  Think about this:

  • 97% of consumers search for local businesses online
  • 20% of searches on Google are related to location

Those are significant numbers you could be missing out on, as Google and other search engines emphasize local search.   Listing your business won't guarantee any success, but can provide the following benefits:

  • Increased local traffic to your website. If your listing contains the right keywords and information about your business, you can attract prospects to your site.
  • Getting listed on online maps and directories. This helps customers and prospects locate you more easily. Some search users also prefer company listing with maps vs. listings without. You want your company in both types of search results.
  • Provides promotional vehicle. If you choose, you can also leverage your local listing for promotional offers and advertising (not free).

Setting up your business on Google Places will take some time, but it is something every local business should do.  I'd also suggest looking at similar local listing such as Bing Local and Yahoo Local, as they should provide similar benefits.

There you have it- the first listing of my favorite free marketing tools.  Next month, I'll write about my second group of free tools.  Until then, can you list your favorite free marketing tools?
 

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Church and School Website Solutions

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Until recently, managing the website for Saint Luke Catholic Church and School was very painful.  Saint Luke had five major areas of focus within their parish (Worship, Parish Life, Religious Education, School, Athletics), all with significant and ongoing content and communication needs, yet they had only one person with the technical savvy to easily manage their website. And that individual was really too important to Saint Luke to be spending so much time updating the site for all the different ministries.  On top of that, the site had so much content that finding what you needed had become very difficult.

Website Solutions for Schools and ChurchesSo Saint Luke began looking for a partner that provided website solutions for schools and churches, with a number of goals in mind.  First and most importantly, they needed to find a web content management system that was so easy to use that various staff members and volunteers could manage daily site updates without any technical skill set.  Second, they needed a web design partner that could design a visually attractive site that allowed Saint Luke to communicate easily with many   different constituents, while also being very user-friendly and easy to navigate (find what you want).  Lastly, Saint Luke wanted a technically advanced web presence, so that they could communicate better with current parishioners, both young and old alike, while attracting new parishioners to join the Saint Luke's community.

After considering various options, Saint Luke selected Marketpath as their web design and web content management partner, launching a new site in only a few months.  Their new site now features an engaging design that allows Saint Luke to communicate more easily to all its constituents, including four new blogs, image and message galleries, multiples calendars, podcasts, videos, and social media integration.  The new site even features a mobile version, so that Saint Luke's most time sensitive information can easily be found.  The new site is also very intuitive and easy to navigate, structured around Saint Luke's five main ministries.  Finally and most importantly, the site is now simple to update, with each of the five ministries controlling their sections of the new site and managing daily updates.  

Instead of worrying about technology, Saint Luke's team can now focus more time on what is important: their services to the community.
 

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Your Website's First Impression & Why It's So Important

Posted 10:59 AM by

As Google continues to modify its search algorithm, tweak the way search results are displayed, and add new features for searchers to interact with, it has becoming increasingly apparent that site owners and administrators have an extremely tough job on their hands to capture the ever-fleeting attention of first time visitors.  Now, with the addition of the "user block" feature that Google has introduced, allowing a searcher to block an entire domain from appearing in any search results (if they are logged into their Google Account), the first impression that your site makes could be its last.  So, here are a few items to think about, since the first impression that a site makes goes way beyond just the way it looks.

1. On-Page SEO

Before a searcher ever reaches your website via a Google search results page; they will be greeted with a few pieces of information from your site.  The title tag, the meta description (or a snippet of it), and the page's URL are all displayed in the familiar listing that Google provides.  If well thought-out, crafted, and maintained, your title tag and meta description can lead to a great user experience for the first time visitor.  Properly, and truthfully, labeling each page within your site to summarize the content is the first step in convincing a would-be visitor that your site is worth their time.

2. Quality Content

So your search engine optimization expert told you that you needed to create content on a regular basis to help improve rankings, right?  While this idea is correct, you must commit to writing quality content.  Think of it this way...if you put garbage in, you will get garbage out (and probably blocked along the way).  Each visitor's time is valuable and wasting it with poor, repetitive, or unoriginal content will result in a poor experience and possibly a block.  With Google's increased ability to rank new articles extremely quickly (and increase exposure), you must write compelling content that is for the user, not the search engine.  Here is a great post from Search Engine Land about this same topic.

3. Off-Page Factors

With the advancement of social media in combination with traditional offline marketing efforts, it could be quite possible that someone would have an impression of your overall brand way before reaching your website.  If a searcher has a negative impression of your brand based upon some other marketing channel, they can block your URL without visiting your site at all.  The important idea here is that your website's first impression may not be made by your website in the first place.

4. Design and Site Structure

As far as making a first impression goes, this one is the no-brainer of the group.  Your sites design and layout either lends itself well towards increasing the impression of the first visit, or it doesn't.  Is it clear what your company or organization does?  Is it easy to find the information that a user is looking for?  Try taking yourself out of your roll and visiting your site for the "first time." Would you come back?  Did it provide the expertise/news/products/etc that you were searching for?  If it needs improvement, can the changes be made by a few modifications, or will it require an entirely redesigned website?  My advice, contact a web design expert for help if you're not sure...

It is unclear to what extent Google is going to utilize the user's feedback on certain URL's in the overall ranking algorithm, but it is undoubtedly going to be factored in at some level.  Ensuring that your website (and your brand) is committed to creating well optimized, well designed, and well written content across all channels of marketing will keep visitors coming back and keep your site off the block list.            


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8 Reasons Your Business Should Be Blogging

Posted 8:00 PM by

Marketpath Blogging for Businesses Whenever I talk to a small business owner or head of marketing about the benefits of blogging, they usually don't see the full value they'll get by implementing a consistent company blog.  They tend to understand a few advantages they'll see, but rarely do they see the big picture of how a well-run business blog can impact their company's marketing program.  So here are my top eight (of many) reasons your business should be blogging.

  1. Blogging can drive traffic by enhancing natural SEO


    Probably the most significant reason your company should be blogging is because it can positively impact your website's natural (not paid) search engine optimization (SEO), so that your blog and website receive higher rankings on search engines, such as Google.  Blogs help to optimize your site in a few significant ways.  First of all, if your blog is also part of your website, every new post will also be adding relevant and valuable content to your site, which Google values as part of their search criteria.  Second, new blog pages are more likely to be found via search, than a regular web page with the same content, as most of the search engines look at blog content as more current and therefore more relevant vs. typical webpage content.  

    Third, and most important, is that your blog (which should include relevant key words and content for your business) can help build backlinks to your website and to specific pages with related information on your site.  Google, and other search engines, like relevant links and key words, as well as fresh content - and a good blog has them all!  And if your blogs are interesting, then your readers will forward and share them via their blogs, social media sites, email and twitter, all of which will result in more links and visibility for your business.

    Finally, blog posts are available and add value through search long after they are written, so they can drive relevant visitors to your site months, and even years after you first post them and have long forgotten about them.  Through the miracle of search, they live on!

  2. Blogging can drive traffic via your blog's followers (readers)


    Another, more traditional way your blog can drive traffic to your website, is by generating loyal readers, who follow or subscribe to your blog via RSS.  The nice thing about loyal blog readers is that they often become loyal customers or referrals for your business, and are also more likely to forward or post your blog elsewhere.   

  3. Blogging can give your business credibility


    Static websites, with little information, tend to give visitors to your site a poor first impression of your company.  Business blogs do just the opposite, positioning your company as an authority in your field and as a reliable source for information.  By blogging about important topics and trends in your industry, you immediately enhance your reputation, which can lead to secondary marketing opportunities and fewer objections to overcome during the sales process.  The same benefits apply to individuals who blog for your company, as they will be viewed as subject matter experts on topics they frequently blog about.

  4. Blogging is learning!


    Forcing yourself to consistently blog helps to keep you on top of your business.  Like it or not, if you blog, you will also learn.  You'll learn from customers, peers, and competitors who post and reply to your blogs and you'll also learn through the research you do on various topics you plan to write about.  The great thing about your blog is that it will keep you from procrastinating on the important research you know you should be doing anyway on various current topics.

  5. Blog content can be re-used (many times over)


    One of the best side benefits of blogging is that your work and content can be re-used many times over.  Your blogs can, and should, be used for content on social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.  Those sites are also great ways to encourage more readership and sharing of your blog.  But don't stop there.  Your blogs can also be used as part of your e-Newsletter or repurposed for white papers, case studies and traditional marketing literature.  You can even repost the same blog in the future with updated commentary, when the topic is an important one.

  6. Blogging and PR work together


    Your blog and your PR strategy should be tightly connected, especially if you are a small business with little or no PR budget.  Your blog is a great way to post news and events about your company, while also linking to formal press releases for more information.  You can also get greater visibility for important news, product launches, etc. by linking to them via related blog topics.  For example, if an auto manufacturer is blogging about the benefits of hybrids vs. traditional cars; wouldn't that be the perfect place to link to their recent press release about the launch of their new hybrid or to an industry write up on the vehicle?      

  7. Blogging drives "Calls to Action" and sales leads


    Unless it is a news blog, announcing a new product or feature, your blog should never blatantly be used for your sales or marketing pitch.  Rather, your blog should provide your target audience with valuable information and/or opinions.  If you are always selling, you won't have many readers for long.  You can, however, lead your readers (via links) to associated content about your products, if your product or service relates to your blog topic and you are not selling too hard.   As an example, if you're writing a blog about the topic of business blogging, it might be the perfect place to link to your business blogging software that makes successful blogging easy.

    Another non-intrusive strategy for generating leads and sales via your blog is to include "calls-to-action" on your webpage, but not within the blog itself.  This strategy works best if your call to action is specific and closely related to the actual blog topic, while also being easily visible.  The challenge in this case, is not just posting a generic call to action that really doesn't have much to do with the topic of interest to your reader.    

  8. Blogging Works!


    And my final reason that your company should be blogging is that blogging works!  It is that simple.  A well thought out blogging strategy can significantly impact your online marketing results.  If you don't believe me, check out this research from HubspotCompanies that blog have far better marketing results than those that don't. The average company that blogs has:

    • 55% more visitors to their website.
    • 97% more links to their website (a primary factor in search rankings)
    • 434% more indexed pages by search engines

There you have it- my top eight reasons your business should be blogging.  I know there are many more reasons to blog that I haven't listed or even thought of.  What are your reasons?

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Your Website is Not drudgereport.com

Posted 7:30 PM by

"All you have to do is throw up a few pages, pretty up the images, and plug it into your CRM. Bada Boom! Done." I've heard comments similar to this a lot. Then the person who said it motions that they're wiping the dirty work off their sleeves, which, in fact, they did before they made the remark. In their mind, there's the idea and then the finish. The rest of us have to worry about the details of implementation - that fat, middle chubby area of website development.

Website development and design is not simple, Marketpath Inc.This post is for those inviduals who plan and build websites and this brings me to the point of this post. Your website is not drudgereport.com because drudgereport.com is incredibly simple. They have a couple images and a bunch of links that point outside of their website. The only thing they have to worry about is making sure that the page is highly availlable - the one, single, ridiculously light on content page. And as far as website design, development, and implementation goes that's about as simple as it gets. Sure, they may have had a billion visits this past March but that's about infrastructure, and not about building a website.

Now, let's move up the difficulty scale. Your website has many pages, perhaps it  plugs into some external systems, and maybe it has e-commerce. The level of difficulty in planning and implementation just increased by 100.

If you have those people who love to oversimplify complex scenarios and state all that has to be done is "bada boom", ask them how. They won't be able to answer you. With this in mind, do not, under any circumstances, allow them to have a part in setting the timeline. And don't let them bully you into comitting more than you are comfortable with. It's so easy to simply get the bully off your back by saying "sure." Because once you say "sure", in their mind you're comitted. Instead of saying "sure," explain to them the real world timeline and what it takes. Then, if they still try to oversimplify that, ask them once again the magical question - "how?" And don't stop asking "how" until they give in to your timeline.

You're the expert. You know what it takes. You're job is not just building the site but managing expectations and if you set expectations too high, you'll pay for it later.


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The Three Pillars of Website Marketing

Posted 12:05 PM by

The three pillars of website marketing - Marketpath IncI wrote about the three pillars a couple years back and thought I'd rekindle the importance of them. The basics of each have not really changed. At its core, your website marketing efforts consist of three primary pillars - Visibility, Engagement, and Conversion. Every marketing initiative serves these three foundational elements in some way and I am constantly reminded how important each is.

The most import element, however, is the conversion. This is where you get the lead, the new advocate, or the sale. If you are not providing a conversion mechanism on your website you are wasting your money and your visitors' time. Visibility and Engagement are great, but they only support the goal of the conversion.

Take a look at your website and evaluate it on these three pillars. Below, you'll find a few questions for each pillar. Your answers should provide a clearer idea on where you need improvement.

Visibility:

  1. Do you regularly insert carefully chosen keywords in your website pages and blogs?
  2. Do you syndicate new content to social media sites (e.g. Twitter, facebook, LinkedIn, etc.)?
  3. Do you practice cross-channel marketing? That is, do you have links to your social media profiles on your webiste, in your emails and do you have links back to your website from those?
  4. Do you attempt to get other organizations and associations to link to your website, when possible?
  5. Are you monitoring your visitor analytics? How many visitors do you get? How many are new vs. returning? From what part of the world do they live? What are the most popular pages or areas of the site? What other sites are sending the most traffic? These are all questions you should review on a monthly basis. Where are users abandoning your site? What is your bounce rate?
  6. Do you monitor what keywords are most used to get to your site and then optimize content based on those? 

Engagement

  1. How long do visitors stay on your site? Do they read pages or watch videos in their entirety?
  2. Do you monitor what sort of content is consumed the most? Do you have best practices in place for producing more of it?
  3. Do you monitor how deep into a site the average visitor travels?
  4. Do you regularly review your website layout and navigation to see where you may need improvement?
  5. Do you practice A/B or multi-variate testing to find the most effective content?

Conversions

  1. Do you at least have a contact us form on your site that is accessible from every page?
  2. Do you maintain relevant calls to action in different areas of your site? For example, do your pages about a particular service have a call to action that is well targeted for that service?
  3. Are your calls to action simple and inviting for an interested buyer/prospect?
  4. Do you have a lead management plan in place once a conversion has occurred? That is, what happens to the lead once you receive it? Does it go to Salesforce or some other CRM? Does it sit in a seldom-checked generic email account? Is someone responsible for responding to each and every one in a timely manner?
  5. Do you have maintain a database of all conversions?
  6. Do you ask visitors who have filled out a form if they would like to be contacted with other information or offers?

 

Answering these questions will help you shed light on your overall website marketing initiatives and how well you've built your foundation. They are at the very core of all things website marketing.

For more information, refer to my articles on each pillar:

 

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Essco Corporation Launches New Website

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Earlier this month, Essco Corporation, supplier of personal protective equiptment, launched a new website featuring a newly redesigned look and increased functionality.  The new Essco Corporation website was built on Marketpath CMS and takes advantage of Marketpath Storefront - a fully functional e-commerce system that allows for the sale of Essco's entire catalog of products.  The site also features a fully integrated blog, social media tools, on-page search engine optimization, and Google Products 

Personal Protective Equipment


Because Essco sells so many products, guiding visitors to the correct product needed to be very straightforward.  The site was designed to feature four top level categories - Safety, Chemicals, Containment, and Equipment.  From there, users can drill down even further into sub-categories to find the specific product to fit their needs.  The site also features a full product search to help users find specific products if they know exactly what they are searching for. 

The site's content is managed using Marketpath CMS and can be updated quickly and easily to allow for enhanced marketing efforts from Essco.  The entire store is managed through the same interface and allows for Essco to add, delete and edit products and product categories.  

Since the site is in its infancy, it is unknown at this time what the exact impact on traffic and conversions will be.  However, the improved design and functionality of the site will allow for increased sales via the web.

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Building an Internet Marketing Plan for Your Small Business - Part II

Posted 8:00 PM by

Last month I discussed the critical components you should consider when developing your internet marketing strategy and plan, as well as the best places to start: your website, search engine optimization, and analytics.  Today I'll cover a few success factors that cross all the components of your plan, regardless of which elements you focus on first.  Keeping these basic principles or success factors in mind throughout your planning and implementation won't guarantee success, but they can improve you odds.

Content is King

Regardless of whether you are emailing prospects, writing a blog, posting on Facebook, Tweeting, or adding a new page to your website, the quality of your content is the most important factor in your marketing success. The reason is simple.  You can have the most technically advanced website or marketing software, but if your audience doesn't care about your message, none of that will matter.  So start with your content strategy, thinking through why you audience will want to read or listen to what your company has to say, and ask yourself two basic questions.

  1. What content will position us as a credible company and as an expert in our field?
  2. What can we give our customers and/or prospects that is valuable to them?  (unique information they can't get elsewhere, promotions, etc.)

Content and Calls to Action - the King & Queen of Website SuccessAs you develop your content plan, also determine who can create important content for your organization and how you can hold them accountable.  Then begin developing an ongoing content calendar that applies to both traditional and online marketing.  Finally, think through how you can share and reuse content across your various initiatives.  Blog posts, for example, can be re-used for email articles   or in print newsletters and can be tweeted.

Calls to Action (are Queen?)

As you are considering your content strategy, you'll also want to think through what you want your audience to do when they are reading your email, blog or tweet or searching through your website.  This may seem obvious, but many business websites, for example, can look nice, yet have very few calls to action.  So your marketing doesn't fall into this trap, ask yourself this simple question.  In a perfect world, what would I want my audience to do after interacting (reading, viewing, listening) with my content? Buy, call us, register, click through to another area, fill out a form, provide information?  Once you know what you'd like your audience to do, start to think through how you can in influence them to interact with your company.  Think back to your content strategy and what you can do to add value for your audience.  Put yourself in your audience's shoes and consider whether this type of call to action would convince you to act.  Remember, you must give your audience something they believe is valuable enough to make them want to interact with you.  What value can you give them?

Measure & Measure Some More!

Regardless of where you start with your interactive plan, you must start measuring your results from the beginning.  It is amazing how many small businesses have websites or Facebook pages, but have no idea whether those initiatives are actually adding value to the bottom line.  It is possible that your Facebook page (or other initiative) is actually hurting your business because it gives people a poor impression of your company or brand.  Let's hope not, but it is possible.  Just doing something (pick any marketing activity) to cross it off your list is not a great strategy.  Instead, think what results you hope to achieve and begin measuring from the start.

The good news is that almost all internet marketing activities are easier to measure than traditional marketing.  So measure from the start, whether you are measuring sales or softer metrics like leads, registrations, page views, or click-throughs.  Then make changes to your marketing and measure again, learning and improving along the way.

Don't Forget Business Processes

Remember from the start that technology is Not a silver bullet. It can be used to enhance a process or to better measure the process or process results, but it is Not a substitute for good business processes.  Whether we're talking about updating your website, writing an online press release, or tweeting an announcement, you still need to think through how the process will work in your company.  As you develop your internet marketing plan, always think through and define new processes and how current processes will change (improve).  Remember that a good process is defined, has an owner, and is measurable.  If you don't consider these things, technology with will just make a bad process faster!        

Keep it Simple (Ease of Use that is)

My final success factor for your internet plan relates to all the other factors mentioned above and to the various systems and technologies your small business with use for all your internet marketing.  Because most small businesses are limited in both technical and marketing resources, it is critical that their systems are easy to use and intuitive.  Whether you are looking for an easy to use web content management system or a simple email marketing tool, make sure you participate in a live product demo, so that you can see for yourself whether the toolset is really user friendly. If the system is not easy to use for non-technical people, it simply won't be used, regardless of how much functionality the system might have.  So look for easy to use marketing solutions; tools that allow you to effortlessly update content and calls to action, painlessly connect to your processes and clearly measure your results!


 

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Fusz Mazda Launches New Website

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Marketpath is happy to announce the launch of Fusz Mazda's new website (www.fuszmazda.com), which features a completely redesigned look and feel and utilizes Marketpath CMS, as well as integrations with Drive Velocity, an automated dealer marketing software provider.

Fusz MazdaFusz Mazda wanted to break the mold of the usual car dealership website and convey not only their extensive inventory, but their commitment to customer service and quality. The site features a customized sliding gallery on the homepage that showcases Fusz Mazda Staff, customer testimonials, and a vehicle spotlight. The homepage also features a scrolling gallery of new and used inventory to help drive clicks to interior pages of the site.

While the site has just recently launched, the improvements in the site analytics have already been noticed. The bounce rate has been reduced from 41% down to 25%, the page views are up 28% since launch, and the pages per visit have skyrocketed 42% per visitor. While it is still very early in the process of determining the true success of the Fusz Toyota redesign and launch, these are all great early indicators that the site is going to outperform its predecessor.

We will be putting together a full case study on the entire suite of Lou Fusz Automotive Network websites over the next few weeks, after they have all rolled out and concrete data is available, so check back and learn more about this great project.


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Building an Internet Marketing Plan for Your Small Business - Part I

Posted 7:00 PM by

Last month I discussed various questions a small business should consider, prior to developing their internet marketing strategy and plan.  At this point you should already know the basics such as your brand positioning, target customers, high level goals, etc.  Now it is time to develop your action plan. 

But where should you begin and what components should you include in your plan?   This is where things get a bit tricky and overwhelming.  As the web has become more and more critical for businesses and people in general, it has also gotten more complex.  To start with, let's list the basic components of internet marketing that should be considered.  This certainly isn't all inclusive, but it covers the basics and is a good start for a small business.

  • Internet Marketing Strategy Components Website
  • Analytics
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
    • On-site (optimizing your own website)
    • Off-site (link building, social media, etc.)
  • Email Marketing
  • Blogging
  • Online Advertising
    • Pay-Per-Click (PPC) or Paid Search
    • Onsite (banners, etc.)
    • Affiliate Advertising
  • Social Media/Marketing
    • Twitter
    • Facebook
    • LinkedIn
    • Other
  • Public Relations (PR)
  • eCommerce
  • Mobile Marketing
  • Video Marketing

Hopefully your business is already involved with some of these web marketing components already.  But if your business has just recently launched or has been around awhile, but relied exclusively on traditional sales or marketing tactics, you may not know where to start. 

So here is my suggestion.  First of all, plan on starting with the basics and adding new components (initiatives) only after your understand and see value in what you have already bitten off.  I've seen a number of organizations that can say they are doing lots of things like social media or online PR for instance, but in many cases, they really don't know if those initiatives are adding any value to their business.  Also keep in mind that most small businesses are not utilizing all the components I listed above.  Some components are better suited than others for the type of organization you're in and the make-up of your company. 

With that said, I suggest you start with the first three components I have listed above, which are all closely related: your website, search engine optimization, and analytics.  Starting with your website is a no brainer.  In today's day and age, your website is the face of your company.  Whether you send a prospect there for information or they find it on their own, they will form an opinion of your company based on what they see.  If you want credibility, you must have an informative, professional looking website.  Your site will also become the center point for all your future online initiatives.  If you look at the list above, almost all the other elements drive people to your site (SEO, email, blogs, advertising, PR) or leverage your site to increase participation in their activity (social media, email, blog registration).  So spend the time and money to create a professionally designed website and have a plan to manage it. Think through both your human resource requirements (internal and/or external) and how you can leverage a web content management solution that simplifies your online marketing and allows you to keep fresh content in front of your target customers.

Search Engine Optimization or SEO is the next component you should start with and it should be part of your basic website planning.  SEO can be very complex, but I am only suggesting you start with the easiest component of SEO, what I call on site SEO or onsite optimization.  On site SEO is simply the process of optimizing your website, based on your specific business and services, so that people (prospects, customers) can easily find your site via search on the various search engines such as Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.  Optimizing a website requires the website designer or developer to understand two things:

  1. Your business and how people choose to find it on the web  -and-
  2. The components that need to be included on your site, which search engines utilize in their search (page rank) algorithms. 

Some of these components are URLs, title tags, Meta descriptions, page titles and relevant content.  Off-Site SEO, which refers to search engine optimization techniques that are not performed on your own website (linking strategies), should be considered later, but start by getting your site optimized first. To learn more about SEO, check out Google's SEO Starter Guide.

The last element you should start with is an analytics tool, so that you that you can understand the results of your internet marketing initiatives.  Measure from the beginning so that you have a baseline and understand the value your site brings to your business.  Set some basic goals and adjust them as needed.  Many small businesses have some sort of analytics in place, but it is amazing how many of them never look at the results.  Basic information such as the number of visitors you get or the pages they visit can help you understand what people are using your site for and how certain content can change the results.  Start with the basics and try to add more valuable metrics over time such as registrations, leads or sales.  Google Analytics is free and provides better data than most small businesses know what to do with, but there are lots of great analytics vendors if you need something with greater functionality.    

If you don't start out on the right foot with your website, on-site SEO, and analytics, it will be more difficult to be successful with any of the other marketing elements listed about, so get these right first.  Next week I'll follow-up with my success factors that cross all the components of your internet marketing plan.

 

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C&T Design selects Marketpath for Content Management and Web Design

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We are excited this morning to announce the launch of C&T Design and Equipment Company's new website (www.c-tdesign.com), which was designed by Marketpath and utilizes our easy to use web content management system.

C&T Design selects Marketpath for web design and web content management The site features impactful photography and show cases C&T Design projects from various industries around the globe, while promoting the food service equipment and services they offer.

The site also includes a new "resource center" that will position C&T as an industy leader in the food service solutions space.  The resource center contains a project gallery for design concepts, a "green" solutions area with information and articles on eco-friendly and energy efficient products, services and design ideas, new "buyers guide" and "cooking guide" sections, as well as C&T Design's first blog.  The website has also been optimized for search (SEO), so that C&T's products and services can be easily found by the numerous industry segments that C&T targets.

If you are in the market for food service equipment, design or consulting, we strongly recommend checking out C&T Design and Equipment.  They're a great company and a pleasure to work with.

More more information about C&T Design and their new site, check out the attached press release.

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Children's TherAplay Launches New Website

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Children's TherAplay Foundation launches new websiteThe Children's TherAplay Foundation is one of the most unique organizations I have been lucky enough to work with.  They incorporate the movement of horses (hippotherapy) into physical and occupational therapy for kids with special needs, treating a wide variety of diagnoses, including, Autism, Cerebral Palsy and Down Syndrome. 

The results TherAplay has produced are amazing - therapy on horses really improves the children's gross and fine motor skills, strength, and balance, as the movement of the horse develops muscle tone.  Just watch some of the TherAplay videos and see how their work has helped a number of kids walk for the very first time! That in itself is amazing, but what makes the place even more special, is how happy the kids are during therapy- it's not work, they get to go ride a horse!  To them, therapy is one of their favorite times of the week, which is pretty fantastic.  (See the kids in TherAplay's Photo Gallery)

Check out TherAplay's cool, new website and see how we incorporated a fun design, a new blog, passionate succcess stories, video, and photos of the TherAplay family, to better communicate TherAplay's vision and services.  But more importantly, go learn more about all the great people at TherAplay and all the good work they are doing for families and children with special needs in Central Indiana. It has been a rewarding experience for Marketpath to work with Children's TherAplay on their website design and web content management needs.

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Hackers and Founders - A Home for the True Business Geek

Posted 3:13 AM by

Tonight I attended my first Hackers and Founders event that highlights Indy's best and brightest entrepreneurs, developers, and investors. Three companies presented great ideas that truly had some legs. It was great for me because I got to speak business with some and technology with others (It's really hard for me to shake this programmer side). Each company had 5 minutes to give their pitch. Here's a quick highlight of each:

 

  1. ModalLogix (http://modallogix.com/) - Angel Morales

    I remember Angel from his days at ExactTarget. I did some contract work and had a private office which the higher ups kicked me out of so Angel could have "thinking" space. Although I was a little disgruntled, and felt like Milton in Office Space, I believe it was well deserved - especially after seeing Angel's presentation tonight.  

    The presentation would have made an auctioneer proud but what he showed was simply amazing! His product, SmartRemarketer, tackles issues like cart abandonment by strategically placing content (whether by email or on the website itself) back into the shopper lifecycle (or in this case - abandonment lifecycle). That is just one small facet of his software but it seems to offer powerful behavioral targeting.
     
  2. EatDrink.it (http://eatdrink.it) - Jared Brown

    This is a very cool idea. Simply put, menu level restaurant ratings. Yelp and Urban Spoon provide reviews and restaurant selection but nobody really rates menu items.

    How many times have you gone to a restaurant, ordered something, and realized it wasn't good at all? $25 down the drain. EatDrink.it provides real user reviews of those items. You can see what others have to say and save yourself the agony of a wasted meal. Another advantage is saving your ratings from restaurants you've visited. I've done it before myself - ordered something on a menu that I had before and didn't like. Yeah I'm old. I forget things. 
     
  3. StatsSquared (http://statssquared.com/) - Brandon Corbin - Indy Startup Weekend winner!

    This is a Twitter analytics tool that helps you measure click-through-rates (CTR). How many people are clicking on your links or those of your competitor? This tool helps you find that out. During Brandon's presentation he used the example of Kim Kardashian and (I think) MSNBC. The sad finding was that tweets from Kim Kardashian had a huge click through rate compared to MSNBC. Sadly, my wife probably contributed to that.

    StatsSquared won Indy Startup Weekend this past weekend and is now poised against 15 other international startups for the Global Startup Battle. You have 45 minutes to vote for them...... go!  http://globalstartupbattle.com/voting/ 

 

I'm continuously intrigued by the level of talent in Indianapolis and can't wait to see what the next decade holds as technologies mature and entrepreneurs thrive. I love this city! 

Big thanks to Matt Hunckler who founded and organizes the Hackers and Founders meetups. Fantastic event!

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    Your Website is Like a Plant

    Posted 12:14 PM by
    "Your website is like a plant. Feed it and watch it grow" This past New Year's we sent this message along with a small bamboo plant to our customers. The point of the message is simple: add new content to your website and watch it grow in its visibility and engagement (two of three key components to a successfull website). If you don't add content then watch it wither away.

    This is the hardest part for people to grasp when it comes to online marketing. In order to be successful, you need to not only participate  by reading others' work, you need to contribute. This means providing content that is valuable to others (hopefully to a lot of others).

    When you post a blog entry you:
    1. add new keywords to your website creating new entry points for new visitors who use those keywords on search engines
    2. add more substance to engage your visitors that is informative, humorous, motivational, inspirational, etc
    The same goes for adding videos, case studies, white papers, and more.

    Perhaps the note to our customers should have said: Your website is like a plant. Feed it valuable, engaging content that uses strategic keywords and watch the number of visitors to your website grow.
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    Website Marketing (Part 3 of 3)

    Posted 8:54 PM by

    Basic website marketing consists of three core parts: visibility, engagement, and conversion.

    Today's topic is conversion. Once you get people visiting your site and engaged in your content, your job is to get them to convert. But before we dive in let's define the term conversion as it applies to your website.

    Website marketing conversion funnel - MarketpathA conversion is an action a visitor takes within your website that leads to them give you information or money. The action could be:

    • Buying a product or service
    • Downloading a white paper
    • Making a donation
    • Signing up for a newsletter
    • Watching a video
    • Reading a case study
    • Playing a game

    1) Start with a Goal


    The desired minimum outcome of any conversion is grabbing some sort of information from your visitor - a name, email, phone number, geographical area, etc - preferrably information you can use to contact them. The best outcome is your visitors making a purchase, becoming a member, volunteering their time, or some other result that benefits your organization.

    You should start with a goal. If the goal is not for the user to purchase something then what information do you want to collect from them? Keep in mind that people shy away from giving personal information so you should collect the absolute minimum you need to satisfy your goal. You cannot expect people to freely provide their information.

    The most basic goal is to generate an online sale. If you don't sell directly on your website, though, your goal may be a little less obvious. An example goal is to collect a name and email address and add the visitor to your newsletter. Or perhaps, you want to get a name and phone number for individuals ready to buy. Whatever the goal, be sure to keep it simple.

    One other very important consideration - you need to determine how the completion of this goal fits into your sales cycle. Does the visitor become an unqualified lead? A warm lead? An motivated buyer?

    2) Give

    You can't expect visitors to simply give you information without getting something in return. Unless I am highly motivated, I will not give you my name, phone, address, or email to see a few screenshots of your product. The give needs to equal or exceed the take.

    Product sales are easy. You get the visitor's information and money and they get a tangible asset. But if I want to get the visitor's name, email, phone, and address I better be giving them something of significant value, such as a research paper with valuable statistics or a video tutorial on how to solve some challenge.

    But here's the problem. Website visitors have an expectation that most information derived from websites should be free. After all, they've been handed free information for a decade and a half. So your offering should have obvious intrinsic value.

    3) Keep It Simple, Stupid

    Website marketing - conversionK.I.S.S. - this is a phrase from my 11th grade geometry teacher. Not only a very smart woman, she was quite capable of breaking down complex concepts into simple illustrations or equations. Keeping it simple means to make your calls to action simple and obvious. Take this start now button, for example. This would fit very easily on a page that discusses some type of maintenance product or program, such as a lawn care treatment program.

    Again, I recommend reading Robert Bly's bookThe Copywriter's Handbook - A Step By Step Guide To Writing Copy That Sells. Bly provides a great section on writing headlines and captivating taglines. You could easily apply this to calll to action buttons or links.

    4) Measure


    Once you have crafted your conversion goals, what you want to get from your visitors, then you'd better be sure to measure the results. For those visitors that convert, where did they come from, what other pages did they look at on your site, and how long were they on the site before they converted? Also check out the bounce rate or the drop off pages (i.e. where are visitors leaving your site). Those areas should lead you to improvements that keep visitors from abandonment.

    My most important bit of advice on measurement is to not over analyze the results - at first. If you get 500 visitors each month and two leads, then it probably isn't worth the effort to create a bunch of reports detailing every aspect of their journey. But, if you have 50,000 visitors a month who, on average, visit up to three pages on your site and you only get two conversions, then definitely over analyze what's going on.

    Paralysis by analysis is just a matter of perspective.

    5) Report

    If you have the resources, put together a weekly or monthly report that ties revenue to your website conversions. This may not be easy if you're a small business but if you are able to do this, then you'll have a clearer idea where you should spend your marketing dollars. Also, if you can tie revenue directly to leads originating from the website who then became customers, you will have great ammunition convincing the powers that be to spend more money.

     

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    The Business Value of Twitter

    Posted 6:58 PM by
    Many people are skeptical in regards to the ROI from participating in social marketing initiatives.  This is Twitter Business Valueespecially true when discussing the value to businesses of using Twitter.  Not only do many non-marketers question its value, but I have also talked with numerous professional marketers who are Twitter Skeptics.  I have to admit that I was pretty skeptical as well.  I signed up with Twitter about a year ago and started following a few Tweeters of personal interest.  Within a few weeks a cousin of mine signed up to follow my personal Twitter account.  My initial reaction was shock and I mockingly asked him, "why in the BLANKING world would you want follow me- don't you have a life?"

    Since then, I've changed my opinion about Twitter quite a bit.  I still think following individuals is, for the most part, a complete waste.  But I've come to realize that Twitter can be a valuable marketing tool for many businesses.  In its simplest form, Twitter is a powerful tool that allows easy "Permission Marketing."  It's not much different then permission based email marketing, where a person has signed up to receive emails or your newsletter.  And as a marketer, an individual that has raised their hand and asked for you to communicate with them, whether via email or Twitter, is a valuable commodity.  Twitter is a great venue for communicating with a group of people who you already know is interested in your product or message.  Still not convinced?  Well, Dell just reported they have already earned $6.5 million in revenue from Twitter over the past two years, and that doesn't include the softer value from advertising impressions.

    Is Twitter the end all and be all of marketing?  I don't think so.  Before you even worry about Tweeting, I'd suggest getting the basics right. First make sure you have the right brand message.  Then make sure you support that brand with a website that communicates your value, is easy to use, has strong, relevant content, and can be easily found on search engines.  Start with a strong content management system that allows you to keep your marketing message fresh, and that has tools to maximize your search engine optimization (SEO).  Then go out and start Tweeting!
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    Asian American Alliance Announces Launch of New Website

    Posted by

    Asian American Alliance
    Asian American Alliance, Inc. unveils its new user-friendly website, aaalliance.org, designed to further Asian American Alliance's mission of inspiring Asian Americans in central Indiana to serve and lead. 

     The site, designed and powered by Marketpath, Inc., includes a new look and feel, enhanced usability, and tools for alliance members to more easily interact and participate in member activities.  The site was built using Marketpath CMS, a web content management system, that allows non-technical users to keep relevant content up to date and to enhance communications between an organization and its members and partners.

    In addition to its new look and clean visual design, the site offers tools for membership sign-up, event registration, event calendaring, news and press releases.  Furthermore, the site is now integrated with a web analytics package, allowing Asian American Alliance Board Members to monitor site usage and to make ongoing improvements for its membership.  "We are excited to raise awareness of the Asian American Alliance with a new website that offers a fresh and appealing design, while also providing usability and functionality to assist our membership and enhance our brand," said Sonia Chen, Vice President of the Asian American Alliance.  "The use of Marketpath's content management system will also allow our organization to improve communication with central Indiana's Asian American community and to provide up-to-date relevant information about our activities."

    The redesign of the website is what Marketpath hopes will be a long partnership with the Asian American Alliance. "We're very excited to have the opportunity to partner with such a great organization that is committed to our community, encourages diversity, and supports the education of our next generation.  Marketpath is proud to do our small part in assisting the Asian American Alliance to achieve their goals and to improve their online presence", said Marketpath CMO, Kevin Kennedy.

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    Marketpath and DreamTrust team up to launch Harry Potter themed website

    Posted by
    Marketpath and DreamTrust, two Indianapolis companies, are teaming up to launch HarryPotterWallArt.com, offering removable wall art for the highly popular film franchise.

    Indianapolis, IN-August 11, 2009-Marketpath, Inc. (www.marketpath.com) was chosen to design and develop DreamTrust Corp.'s new website, www.HarryPotterWallArt.com. The innovative website will sell reusable wall decals, consisting of licensed images from the Harry PotterTM films.

    DreamTrust needed a partner that could bring its product to life on the Web, helping fans visualize how the Pinhedz wall decals could transform their homes. To accomplish this goal, DreamTrust selected Marketpath, Inc., an Indianapolis based company specializing in website design and development services and on-demand Web content management and e-commerce solutions.

    "We are excited to work with Marketpath to deliver this innovative new website for Harry Potter fans of all ages," said Rick Barretto, DreamTrust founder. "By partnering with Marketpath, Inc., who specializes in Web software and design, we'll bring our products to life on the Web with a richness that allows fans to envision how their favorite characters and scenes will look in their homes. Marketpath's software will enable our marketing staff to update and enhance the site easily without having to rely on technical developers and long timelines. Their software is extremely user-friendly, which lets us add new products and features quickly to the site."

    DreamTrust Corp. offers hundreds of officially licensed images for sale from each movie in the series. Their patented Pinhedz material consists of self-adhesive, fabric matte paper that attaches easily to any non-porous surface. DreamTrust brings to life the Harry Potter images, varying in size from 12 inches to life-size pictures, and makes them available for the home or business.

    Marketpath CEO Matt Zentz believes www.HarryPotterWallArt.com will be a huge success. "When you combine DreamTrust's vision and superior Pinhedz product with Marketpath's Web content management software and design expertise, the result is a website that should please our target audience. And with our help, Harry Potter fans should be able to immerse themselves in the film experience while in their own homes."

     

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    Website Marketing (part 2 of 3) - Engagement

    Posted 7:19 PM by

    Basic website marketing consists of three core parts: visibility, engagement, and conversion.

    Today's topic is engagement. Once you get people visiting your site you need to give them a reason to stick around for a while and come back. You can accomplish this through good content and intuitive usabillity.

    Content: Traditional Web Pages

     

    Traditional web pages within your site serve several purposes. Here are a few: to deliver information, to tell a story, and to get someone to perform some sort of action (like making a purchase or downloading a white paper). The question you should ask for each page is "What is the goal of this page?" What do you want visitors to do? Do you want them to perform some sort of action? Do you want to build your brand by delivering entertaining or informative content? This is where you start. Figure out the goal of each page and you will have a strong foundation for the page content.

    In Garr Reynolds' book, Presentation Zen, he suggests crafting your presentation offline - which means no computer. This gives you more freedom to craft your message and doesn't bind you to the constraints of a computer-based program. So, grab a notepad or find a white board and layout your page based on the goals you defined.

    With an outline and plan in place, you can begin writing or hire someone to do the writing for you. As you write, keep your core audience in mind. Should you spend the first third of the page discussing the chemical composition of hydrochloric acid or just get to the point that it is used during the production process of your very sheik PVC furniture? The answer depends on your audience.

    I would recommend reading Robert Bly's book called The Copywriter's Handbook - A Step By Step Guide To Writing Copy That Sells.  This book contains a great deal of tips and pointers on writing great copy and also includes a lot about persuasive titles and headlines.

    Content: Social Media

     
    Social media provides many platforms for less formal communications with customers and prospects. Social media, by nature, is .... well ... social. It is a conversation between two or more people. One of the most cost effective tools you can add to your communications and marketing arsenal is a blog. Blogs provide a place for visitors to return again and again as long as you provide content worthy of their return.

    Blogs can be used to drive traffic to your website with search optimized keywords and they can be used to build expertise in a specific industry. They can also be used to provide greater visibility into the happenings of your organization. Again, your goals need to be set before starting a blog but once you have one or more in place, have at it! Let your visitors leave comments and be sure to respond to those comments. This creates a two way dialog.

    Other social media tools you can use are those that already have mass appeal, such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. I won't go into any detail how to use these tools but they can provide another mechanism for reaching out and engaging customers and prospects. I would highly recommend reading groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff of Forrester Research. This will give you a lot of insight into how social media can work for you and in what circumstances you may want to use it.

    Social media is simply another way for you to connect to others. It can provide a richer, more meaningful experience for everyone if it is used properly.

    Usability

    When a visitor lands on your page, the paths they can take should be very clear and intuitive. If a visitor has to work too hard to find what they're looking for, they will most likely leave. Make it easy. People find things when a website has a familiar navigational structure broken down into sensible chunks. 

    One of my favorite websites is all about bad websites - Web Pages That Suck. Here's their page on web pages with bad navigation. If you can avoid their list you might be safe.

    Adam Brand, VP Creative and Client Services for Marketpath, maintains a blog called Great Website Content: Balancing Form and Function. Adam provides a lot of insight into what makes a great website. Although he doesn't post often, his entries are still worthy of a read.

    The Bottom Line

    Once you get visitors to your website, you need to provide engaging content that either gets them to do something or keeps them coming back. There are many different ways to do this through good copy and strong usability.

    At the end of the day we want commitment and want to ask our customers and prospects "Will you marry me?" Of course, we want them to say "Yes!" So, make it worth their while and engage them.

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    Website Marketing (part 1 of 3) - Visibility

    Posted 2:02 PM by

    Basic website marketing consists of three core parts: visibility, engagement, and conversion.

    Today's topic is visibility.If your website cannot be found then you can't engage visitors and you certainly can't convert them. So how do you get found? The answer to this question depends on the purpose of your website. Almost every website has an intended goal that may or may not be explicitly obvious, which is to influence users into taking some sort of action. Before you can do that, though, you must first get them to your website.

    I like to think of the mechanisms driving visitors to your website as chauffeurs. Chauffeurs act as motivators that direct individuals to your organization's main website, to a landing page, or a microsite. They can be online and offline. Here's a list:

      Visibility drivers for website marketingOnline Website Chauffeurs
    • Search engines
    • Email marketing (newsletters, promotions, etc)
    • Social networking sites
    • Blogs
    • Pay-per-click advertisements
    • Podcasting
    • Video magazines
    • Banner Ads
    • Backlinks from other websites 

      Offline Website Chauffeurs
    • Radio ads
    • TV ads
    • Direct mail
    • Trade shows
    • Speaking engagements
    • Public relations
    • Business networking
    • Billboards
    • Seminars

    All of these marketing methods may still provide brand recognition and may drive business directly. But more and more often, individuals who see your ads, see you speak, or read your blogs want to learn more about your organization anonymously. That is, they want to hide behind the cloak of web anonymity to see if you can fulfill their needs or wants before they ever engage in two-way communications - all because they know that if a two-way conversation begins, the hard selling tactics will also begin.

    As a web marketer, you need to figure out which chauffeurs will capture the attention of your prospects. Once you have that part figured out, you need to make sure that every single point of contact with prospects involves a link to your website (i.e. front page, landing page, or microsite).

    Here are a few steps you should take to boost your visibility:

    Step #1 - Initial Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
    Basic SEO is fairly simple with the right tools. You need to come up with search keywords that your prospects are using. Use Google AdWord's Keyword Tool to help find less competive keywords. If you mostly do business locally you should incorporate local terms. For example, we target "Indianapolis web content management." Another great tool is HubSpot's Website Grader. This will give you a website visibility grade and provide a great amount of information for improving overall ranking.

    There are firms that can help you with this. Just don't get suckered into ongoing SEO fees unless there are very clear measurable results tied to your agreement (which most companies won't do). Many companies tout themselves as SEO experts and will charge the ongoing fee for "link building" or "ongoing optimization." Most are snake oil salesman. But some (actually very few) will engage with you and help you craft an SEO strategy that can work. Stay alert, though. If an SEO firm says they will boost your visibility but don't contact you for a month.... well, you should see the writing on the wall.

    For most people, SEO is something that they can do with the right tool and a couple hours investment to read on up on the basics. Seriously, it's not rocket science. Type "search engine optimization" on any search engine and you'll find thousands of websites with free information on the subject.

    Step #2 - Calls to Action
    When you put together marketing pieces, what are your calls to action? To call a phone number? To come to your store? In most cases, you will want to have a very obvious link to your website, landing page, or microsite on all marketing pieces that prospects see. This gives them an opportunity to continue the anonymous engagement and investigate further. What do you put your website link on? Absolutely everything! If you've put out any sort of communication and haven't included a direct link to your website, you may have just lost new customers who may have had interest but aren't yet ready to talk.

    Step #3 - Social Media
    I'll admit, I haven't completely embraced social media as many in my industry have. The problem with social media is the amount of time it requires to successfully establish yourself and your brand. If you compare apples to apples (online social networking with offline networking) I will argue that offline networking has a more immediate and longer lasting benefit. To me, being able to shake hands with someone and look them in the eye provides a stronger connection than the virtual connections of online social sites.

    That shouldn't exlude social media as a driver to your website, though. Becoming active to any extent in social media will help with SEO and brand recognition and can lead to some very interesting connections that weren't possible offline. If you are able to capture the attention of people you've made a connection with online then they are more likely to have interest in learning about you and your organization. Where do you think they go first? That's right, your website. The important thing is to make sure you provide links back to your website when you leave comments, setup profiles, etc.

    I'm not going to go over these, but here are a few links to social media sites that may be of interest: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Digg, and del.icio.us.

    Step #4 - Stay Active
    With the three previous steps, you need to stay active. Complacency will lead to lower visibility from search engines, direct marketing, and social media sites. With SEO, put in place rules that govern keyword use in any new content put on the web. With marketing communications, establish baseline calls-to-action for everything that include links to your website, landing page, or microsite. And for social media, stay in the conversation. Your old content will stay on the site but it's like a busy email inbox - once a day goes by, it's buried.

    Keep an eye out for "Website Marketing (part 2 of 3) - Engagement" about how to better engage all those new visitors coming to your site!

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    Marketpath Launches New Phi Sigma Kappa Website

    Posted by
    Phi Sigma Kappa uses Marketpath Content Management Solution (Marketpath CMS)
    Marketpath launched a newly designed and branded website for Phi Sigma Kappa that coincides with their 106th anniversary. Marketpath designed and delivered the new site, rebuilt forms to collect donations, dues, and chapter payments, and provided a Marketpath CMS account that enables Phi Sigma Kappa staff to manage existing content, create new pages, and modify site navigation.


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    A More Effective Website

    Posted 3:27 PM by

    What have you done for your website lately?  Or perhaps I should ask a better question, what has your website done for you lately? In these times of a rough economy, hopefully the answer isn't "nothing."  An underutilized, non-producing website is simply a wasted opportunity, and the worst part is, it's a cheap and easy opportunity.  Sure, you could dump ten thousand dollars into a beautiful new website, and it might yield some quantifiable results, but what is going to keep people coming back?  A fresh message, that's what.

    Without a simple and cost effective way to keep your website up to date and current, all that money that was spent on your website was, in essence, thrown away.  With the right tool, a good content management system, you can turn your website into a wealth of knowledge for your customers and potential clients.  No longer do you have to worry about being charged for each and every update.  With Marketpath CMS, you have the freedom and the ability to change your site anytime you wish from any PC with internet access.  What would you do with all of that power?  Hopefully, the answer to that question is "make my website work for me!"     

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    What color is your business?

    Posted 3:21 PM by

    One of the first things you notice about a website is the color palette. The colors of your site can determine the 'mood' of your site. This is one of the most dominating elements of a website's first impression. The first step in designing a good website is choosing complimentary colors (i.e., colors that get along). We've all seen color swatches at the hardware store offering a small collections of colors that 'go well together.' This is important for setting the mood or theme of a room. Your website is no different. 

    The following websites are GREAT resources for finding colors that blend well together:

    1. www.colorcombos.com
    2. www.colorblender.com
    3. www.colorschemer.com
    4. www.colourlovers.com

    Color is used to evoke emotion. Consider the following examples. Which site is soothing and gives you a sense of warmth and which is loud and gives you a headache?

                

    Well balanced color is essential to consistency and flow in a website. This was the reason we created "strict colors" within Marketpath CMS. With strict colors enabled, website content managers need not worry about matching colors on their own. We add your website's unique palette of colors to the editor so keeping your content consistent is a snap!

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    Engage Website Visitors - Tell a Story

    Posted 5:17 PM by

    Engage website visitors by telling a storyHere is something to think about when trying to write more engaging webiste copy - tell a story.

    It's really that simple. Why does your website have to be a stuffy replication of your brochure? It doesn't! Tell a story and you will not only draw the attention of your new visitors, you may also better engage existing customers who are looking for a new way to use your product or service.

    Stories, especially those that touch the heart or tickle the funny bone, will draw attention because people naturally enjoy stories.

    That reminds me, this one time... at band camp....

    Just kidding, I've never been to band camp but I have been to computer camp. I think it was 1985 and computers only did one thing well back then - Oregon Trail.

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    Track your website's performance with newly integrated Google Analytics

    Posted by

    We have integrated Google Analytics right into Marketpath CMS. You can now learn more about where your visitors come from and how they interact with your site. You'll get the information you need to write better ads, strengthen your marketing initiatives, and create higher-converting websites. Learn more about the benefits directly from Google.

    Google Analytics replaces the default 'Visitor Tracking' panel within Marketpath CMS and opens up in its own tab. If you're interested in knowing what your website is doing, call us today at 800-657-7786. Integration of Google Analytics is included with any Marketpath CMS account.

     

     

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    Website Chauffeurs

    Posted 1:26 PM by

    Both online and offline marketing (such as email, blogging, direct mail, ads, etc) should all contain some sort of action item. In most cases, the action item will direct people to a website or landing page where they can learn more about a particular product, service, or promotion. This is very common practice and many of those channels can be utilized affordably. But this is where marketers often fail (or get hosed for that matter).

    Take a short time to look at the diagram below. Each spoke represents some sort of marketing channel, or in my terms, a Website Chauffeur. These mechanisms capture the attention of their viewers and then chauffeur them to the website where the next step in the selling process begins.

    Matt Zentz - Marketpath Website Chauffeur Model

    Online chauffeurs are shown in blue and offline chauffeurs are shown in orange.

    Website Chauffeurs are great at capturing attention and bringing individuals to the next step at the center of the spokes - the website (or the hub). But the problem is Website Chauffeurs don't convert visitors into customers. That is the job of your website. Wherever visitors land within your website your message should build value before attempting to make a sale.

    This is why it is so important to have a simple and powerful Web content management system to help you adjust your message. Chances are you will not get that message quite right the first time, or the second time, or the third, fourth, fifth, or sixth time. Hopefully, you get the point. Having a tool that doesn't punish you for making changes is a necessity, unless you like to send cash to a developer at $100 per hour. A Web content management system gives you the capability to adjust the message yourself and save enormous amounts of time and money.

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    Is Web Design Dead?

    Posted 4:22 PM by

    Grim Reaper of Web DesignThis morning I met with the president of annother web technology company who specializes in SEO.  He informed me that in the last year they began turning down all web design work.  I see this all the time.  One week a web design shop, the next they've specialized in one specific area and refuse design work.  In other cases I'll hear 'We're trying to get away from web design.  It's still our bread-and-butter but we really would like to focus on...'

    What's a guy supposed to do with this info?  We've got a designer on staff, but we focus primarily on CMS.  Should we outsource all our design and focus solely on content management?  Is design something we should be 'getting away from.'  All the success stories I hear are about so-and-so who gave up web design to focus on such-and-such and now has hundreds of high value clients.

    I think this trend is excellent.  It elimiates competition for web design and allows us to focus on our highest value offering.  There will always be design shops who can handle the lower budget projects that are sure to be out there, but the specialists can keep their margins high and focus on innovation.  Some days it may seem like we're splitting the web into a million pieces, but in the end new technologies will be developed, price points will become competitive, and our clients will be that much more effective in the marketplace.

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    Webdesign 2.0 a myth?

    Posted 1:08 PM by

    I had an interesting conversation with a designer friend of mine this weekend.  I started the talk with a few comments about Marketpath's shiny new website.  I was promoting all the interesting content and features the site had to offer as well as the sleek new Web 2.0 design.  'Web 2.0 design?' he said.  'Web 2.0 doesn't refer to a design style!'

    spider web 2.0I was shocked!  Not a design style?  Are you kidding me?  I'm supposed to be telling people about all the new and amazing ways that the web can enhance their lives, but I'm supposed to deny that the way the web 'looks' won't be affected?  I can't do it.  I won't do it!  The web is changing.  The look is changing.  Barriers are being broken down on a daily basis. 

    So, what is a web 2.0 design?  It's new, fresh, and draws the user in.  It's not rocket science.  If it looks good and is user friendly it's web 2.0.  If it's got a blog and an RSS feed it's web 2.0.  Okay maybe I'm not the top expert in this field, but you've got to admit that the sites that are popping up out there today are way more bitchin than the ones from even a few years back.

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    Marketpath Website Revamped

    Posted by
    7/23/2008 - Marketpath has finished updating their website with a fresh look and clean feel.  The site is now live at http://www.marketpath.com
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    YPCI Goes Live with New Website

    Posted by

    4/8/2008 - Young Professionals of Central Indiana has chosen Marketpath CMS as their choice for getting the most out of their website.

    YPCI's new website is intended to be a tool for both members and YPCI to continue to develop lasting connections in the Central Indiana business community. 
     
    Paid members of YPCI will have access to additional features that are not available to non-members, including the ability to edit your profile (including a picture and contact information if you so desire) and to track both upcoming and past YPCI events.  Paid members will also have access to a member directory that includes information about the other members of YPCI (only that which members opt to have shown). 
     
    The website also has greater functionality for the Board of YPCI and will allow them to better plan and execute events, as well as collecting information regarding those members who would like to become even more involved in YPCI planning and leadership.
     
    For more information on YPCI, check out http://www.ypci.net/.

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    Dominion Group Website

    Posted by

    5/30/2007 - Dominion Group, an Indianapolis-based provider of comfortable and affordable housing, launches a new website designed and built by Marketpath, Inc.  The new website incorporates an appealing, modern design with the ability to search for apartments by type and location. 

    The Dominion Group website also includes a document management application that enables over 30 apartment communities to share business critical forms and other information.

    Visit http://www.dominiongroup.net to learn more about Dominion Group.

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    Alway Development Corp Website

    Posted by

    5/14/2007 - Alway Development Corporation, a South Bend, IN based custom home builder, launches a new website designed and built by Marketpath, Inc.  The new website highlights two Alway communities, Fernwood and Deer Hollow, and presents detailed information about homes for sale and available models from which to begin the building process.

    Alway manages their website with Marketpath CMS, a website content management solution.

    Visit http://www.alwaydevelopment.com to learn more about Alway Development Corporation.

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