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5 Ways Your CMS Can Help Your On-page SEO

Posted 5:35 PM by

CMS Selection ProcessSelecting a content management system can be a daunting task.  On the surface, many of these systems appear to have the same level of functionality and the ability to accomplish many of the same tasks.  While one blog post isn’t enough to compare each and every feature that a good CMS should have, it is perfect to discuss one subset – Search Engine Optimization capability.  Since SEO is seemingly at the forefront of every site owner’s mind, here are five things that your content management system should allow you to do (in no particular order):

 

1. Create Search Engine Friendly URLs

Each time that you create a page, a new blog post, or add a product to your store (if applicable), your site’s CMS should create a search engine friendly URL for the new content.  Not only does this make it easier for the search engine to determine the topic of the page, it is much easier for a human to determine if the page is applicable for their search.  If you’re not sure if your URL is search engine friendly, take a look at a subpage, blog post or product page…if it makes sense to read, there is a good chance it is search friendly.  If it contains strings of question marks and numbers, it may be time to look into a new CMS. 

2. Create Unique Title Tags, Meta Description Tags, and H1 Tags for Each Page

Probably the most important aspect of on-page SEO is the ability to create unique title tags for each page.  Title tags are still a determining factor for search rankings (although a bit diminished), and they definitely help with usability of the site as well.  Meta description tags aren’t factored into search rankings any longer, but they can help increase the click-through rate to a specific page and feature calls to action.  Each page should also contain one H1 tag to tell the user the exact topic of the page.

3. Manage Alt Image Tags

Accurate alt image tags help increase the chances that your website’s images will be returned in an image search. Alt image tags are simple 3-5 word descriptions for what the topic of the image is. Every image on your site should have a unique alt image tag.

4. Built In Blogging Software

Blogging is a great way to create keyword rich, sharable content around a certain topic.  Your CMS should feature a built in blogging software that makes it easy to add blog posts to your site.  These blog posts should be open to comments from readers, feature the ability to share on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google’s +1, as well as an RSS Feed.  The content should be displayed in a chronological order, be searchable, and created with friendly URL’s as described above.

5. Create Permanent Redirects

One of the often overlooked aspects of creating content using a CMS is the ability to set up permanent redirects. 404 errors are unacceptable as far as good SEO’s are concerned, so having the ability to create permanent (301) redirects to live content is a must. This is especially important for larger sites that are updated often.

Collaboration is KeySide Note - Keep in mind there are more factors that go into a CMS selection than just the SEO capabilities of the platform.  The fact of the matter is that the selection of a CMS should go hand in hand with website design, SEO vendor selection, social media strategy determination, and overall online branding evaluation.  These different aspects of Internet marketing have become their own industries, with specialists excelling in each vertical.  The most successful websites that we have seen have been products of collaborative efforts between software providers, service providers, agencies, and the client itself.  After all, there is nothing worse than hearing the words “We just launched our newly designed website, can you help us with the content management strategy, SEO, or insert another service here. ”

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Sex, Sports, Gambling & QR Codes

Posted 10:55 AM by

Sex, Sports, Gambling & QR CodesWe all know that sex sells-right?  Well at least I do.  And we also know that sports and sex have been connected for a long time from a marketing perspective.  Think Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, Anna Kournikova , Danica Patrick, or Brandy Chastain (of World Cup soccer fame).  And we also know that sports and gambling go together like peas and carrots.  Just ask Forrest Gump, Pete Rose or Alex Rodriguez.

So it was only a matter of time before a hot shot marketing guru combined sports, sex, and gambling with the ones of the hottest new marketing trends: QR Codes.  That’s just what Betfair, an online betting company, is doing to promote their website.  At an upcoming beach volleyball tournament in London, British beach volleyball stars Shauna Mullin and Zara Dampney will be sporting high tech bar codes (QR Codes) on their itsy bitsy bikini bottoms.  When photographed on a smartphone, the QR barcode will direct users straight to the Betfair website.  Sounds creative! Bordering on tasteless, but still creative!

Click here for the full article

QR Codes, Landing Pages, and Content ManagementWhile I don’t personally promote this type of marketing, or gambling for that matter, my guess is that they’ll get a lot of web visits.  For more creative ideas and information about QR Codes, check here.

Anyone have other creative examples of marketing with QR Codes that are less offensive?

 

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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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Infographics: The Perfect Link Bait

Posted 1:59 PM by

Infographics are everywhere these days, and for good measure.  Personally, I love them, and judging by the spike in their usage, I'm not alone.  In case you're not familiar, infographics are a way to display a complex idea quickly and clearly, using images and statistics.  Here is an example of an infographic on Facebook's users. 

Visualize the Data
Visualize the Data

Companies and organizations have jumped on the bandwagon, creating infographics whenever possible, to reaffirm (or establish) this expertise within an industry. However, the biggest reason for the explosion of infographics may be to gain exposure on search engines and within social media.  Because these graphics are usually very interesting or intriguing, they get shared a lot.  This creates a buzz about the graphic, the topic, or the company.  In turn, links to the graphic are built naturally, increasing search engine ranking position for the website where the graphic is hosted.  Basically, infographics are great link bait.

If you're interested in creating one of these graphics, make sure you follow a few simple rules:

1. Create an amazingly catchy headline

This should be simple to understand.   Just like with any link bait, a catchy headline should increase the odds of someone actually viewing and sharing the content.

2. Don't try to cover too much information

Some of the best infographics that I have seen stick to one major topic.  Trying to cover too much in one infographic makes for a cluttered, difficult to follow layout.

3. Don't focus too much on your company/organization

This may seem a bit counter-intuitive, but trust me, it will work better in the long run.  Including general statistics without your brand associated with it seems more transparent, which will be shared more.  You can include your company's logo and brand at the bottom in the credits of the infographic. 

4. Hire a professional

If the goal for the infographic is to be shared across the Internet, it should look like a professional graphic designer put it together.  Graphical representation of the topic is what it is all about, so it shouldn't be too text heavy.  There are quite a few companies out there that create awesome infographics, but one of my personal favorites is Visual.ly

 

Update (8/3/2011) - It turns out that Visual.ly's "create an infographic" feature isn't live yet.  As for hiring a professional company for help creating infographics (or any other link bait), any professional new media agency should be able to help.  Since the nature of an infographic is for sharing, you should be able to check out a few samples of work from any agency you are looking to hire.  Thanks to Doug Karr of DK New Media for the alert on Visual.ly.

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Google Finally Gets Social with Google+

Posted 2:29 PM by

Google PlusIt has been about two weeks since the launch of Google+ and it’s safe to say that it has been Google’s most successful “social” launch yet.  With the failed experiments of Google Buzz and Google Wave, no one was quite sure why a company such as Google couldn’t get social right.  However, Google+ has showed promise, ingenuity, and more importantly, rapid user adoption and growth.  Still in its infancy, Google+ is poised to hit 20 million users by this weekend, which is undoubtedly impressive considering it was limiting invitations to join the network for the better part of a week.    

If you haven’t gotten an invite to join, or you haven’t had the time (or desire) to join another social network, you’re still probably wondering why Google+ is any different.  Some people have coined it the “Facebook killer”, and while I think it is a bit premature to label Google+ as “David” to Facebook’s “Goliath”, there are a few reasons to take note of the service.

Everything is in One Place

Anyone with multiple social networks, or web-based services, knows that separate logins for everything can become a pain.  Google+ utilizes your already existing Google Account that ties into Gmail, calendar, documents, reader, etc.  If you’re an avid Google user already, adoption of Google+ is one-click away. 

Circles

To put it simply, Circles are a way to group your connections on Google+.  Facebook has groups and twitter has lists, but those features were implemented after users’ contact lists had already gotten out of hand, making implementing them effectively a time-consuming, and often difficult, endeavor.  Circles are available from the beginning, and with a drag and drop interface, it is truly easy to separate contacts and share content with certain groups of people.  I can now utilize my one account for business and personal fun, which has always been an issue for me with Facebook and Twitter. 

The Best of the Best

Google seems to really understand it when it comes to connecting online.  Twitter is great because I can follow anyone that I find interesting…there is no need to request a friendship.  Facebook is great because it makes sharing simple and easy (you get more than 140 characters).  Google+ seems to be a hybrid of the two services, which I love.  I can add friends, business contacts, and people that I’ve never met but find interesting into different circles which automatically formats my “stream” of information.  Also, I don’t have to click a separate link to watch a video or view a picture anymore; it is all displayed in a Facebook-like feed.

The Value of the +1 and Search

Google rolled out the +1 feature over a month ago, which is their version of the “like” or “tweet”.  It is fully integrated into the Google+ service already, and you can guarantee that Google is already taking these social cues into account within the search algorithm.  Data is everything to companies like Google, which is why these services can continue to be offered for free.  I would bet they care more about crafting a profile for each individual user so they can display the best search results (and deliver the best ads – $) more so than “dethroning” Facebook.  Now that all of the sharing, +1’ing, connecting, and socializing is happening on their servers, it makes it much easier to truly be effective.

Business Uses

So far, Google+ isn’t allowing businesses to set up profiles, even though I have seen a few businesses break the rule and set it up as a personal account.  Google has said they will roll-out the ability to create business profile later this year, so be patient.  It will be interesting to see how companies craft their Google+ strategy and if it will differ at all from the dreaded “Like us on Facebook” campaigns that seem to dominate marketing at the moment.

Google+ isn’t without its growing pains though.  Already users have complained that the sheer amount of data from some of the “tech celebrities” out there have caused them rethink their circles, as one user can dominate a stream.  I’d like to see Google implement a Google Alert style system here, where I can get all of the updates from any particular user as they happen, once an hour/day/month, etc…They already have the technology, so I don’t think it would be too much of a stretch to implement. 

What do you think?  Have you been an early adopter? What do you like/dislike?       

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Nine Beneficial Uses for Web Forms

Posted 12:00 AM by

Nine Great Uses for Web FormsA major component of our recent roll out of Marketpath CMS 3.0, was the launch of Marketpath’s Form Builder.  Form Builder is a great new tool that allows non-technically skilled individuals to quickly create attractive web forms and to easily insert them into their website or web pages, all with Marketpath's web content management solution.

With the introduction of this great new solution, I thought it would be a good idea to review a few of the many ways that marketers can leverage web forms to engage and convert website visitors and capture valuable data from customers and prospects.

  1. Contact Forms

One of the simplest uses of a web form is to create a “contact us” form.  The concept is certainly basic, but execution is key.  By making the actual form or button large, attractive and visible, you can increase conversions by over 100%.  KSM Consulting does a nice jog of this on their home page.  You can also increase conversions by positioning these forms in visible spots throughout your site in high traffic content areas.

  1. Surveys & Polls

Form Builder makes it very easy to create quick polls and surveys in minutes.  And what a great way to learn more from your customers, while keeping your site fresh and interesting!  In this day and age, your prospects want to engage you directly, so why not let them?  Learn their ideas for new products, services and promotions and you benefit.  This strategy also produces user generated content that positively impacts your search engine optimization (SEO) - not a bad side benefit.

  1. Subscription Forms (email, newsletters, etc.)

Easily create Web Forms with Marketpath's Form BuilderFinding ways to add value to your prospects and customers in some fashion, so that they want to communicate or stay in touch with you is always a challenge. You certainly need worthwhile content to keep them interested, but effective web forms are also needs to convince them to sign up to begin with.  Clark Appliance does a nice job of enticing their target customers, cooking enthusiasts, to stay in touch with recipes, cooking classes, and special promotions.  

Kahn’s Fine Wines & Spirits also does a great job cross promoting their email newsletter with events and other promos, both on their home page and throughout their site.

  1. Event Registration Forms

Is there a better way to identify a hot prospect than to have them raise their hand and register for a tradition event or online webinar? If they register, they must have at least some interest in your organization or service.  And if they have interest, why not use a web form to gain some insight into the individual or company? 

  1. Promotions & Contest Registrations

A great way to collect data (name, email, phone, preferences, etc.) about prospects and current customers is through online contests and promotions that encourage visitors to your site to register.  Harry Potter Wall Art does a great job of compiling contacts for future communications and promotions via various contests and give-a-ways they promote on their homepage, as well as via Facebook and Twitter. 

  1. Order Forms (Case Studies, White Papers, Merchandise)

Other excellent way to generate leads using forms is to offer useful content on your website that individual can either download or have emailed to them.  Don’t get greedy with the information you ask for, however, or your sign-up (conversion) rate will go down the tubes.

  1. Request a Quote Forms

This is another type of form that may seem overly basic (see contact us), but that can provide a great deal of value (via leads) if executed properly. By making the form easy to complete, highly visible, and placing it in areas of your site that draw the prospect’s interest, you can dramatically increases conversions. C&T Design and Equipment generates significant leads by featuring the call to action (Request a Quote) directly from their home page, in addition to placing it on each of their regional office pages, as well as other key areas on their site. 

  1. Evaluation & Feedback Forms

Asking for feedback from your customers is a great way to gain insight into whatever initiative your organization to working on, while also getting some positive PR.  With an easy to use form builder, you create simple or complex evaluations. Utilizing these types of forms on landing pages and via customer follow-up email campaigns can create a positive impression about your organization’s service level.

  1. Request Help/Support Forms

Utilizing forms on your FAQ, contact us, or customer service/support pages can both elevate your service immediately and give your company information to enhance your service over time.  Information is power and the data you receive regarding questions and problems can be used to enhance your support processes (time to respond, tracking, etc.), while helping you to prioritize future site content that can more quickly answer your customer’s questions. 

There you have it - I’ve given a few basic ideas on how to leverage web forms to better engage your customers and drive conversions.  What creative ideas or examples of using web forms can you share?

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Think You Know What's Best? Ask Your Customers.

Posted 6:52 PM by

I was in a prospective client meeting yesterday where we were discussing a possible e-commerce addition to their existing website.  The company’s product list, although not too extensive, consists of a highly-specialized product…which isn’t exactly e-commerce friendly when you add in the fact that you probably can’t purchase these items with your American Express Business Card ($). 

After about 90 minutes discussing the current site’s limitations and the extensive goals for an online ordering system (there was quite a bit of custom development that would need to occur to make e-commerce work with the business model, which meant quite a hefty price tag for the development), I asked the question: “So, if we build this, you’re sure your customers will use it, right?” 

Listen to your CustomersAfter thinking for a few moments, the CEO mentioned that their old site had an e-commerce system, but only a small fraction of their customer base utilized it.  When the e-commerce functionality was removed during the transition to a new CMS, only one client complained about it, and they still continue to order today.  It didn’t take too much more thought to realize that all of this discussion about added functionality was probably overkill. 

After further discussion, we did determine that it was going to be important for growth to allow for online ordering, so I suggested sending out an online survey to their client base to find out what they would like to see in an online ordering system.  Letting their customer’s guide the design process to ensure they get a tool they enjoy working with will ultimately lead to a more successful (and economical) project.

I think a lot of companies make this same mistake.  Getting caught up in the day to day aspect of their business can sometimes hinder the growth and decision making.  Assuming that they know their business and what will be best for it, they don’t take the time to get an outside perspective and listen to who matters the most…their customers.

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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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Energy Systems Network Chooses Marketpath CMS

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Energy Systems Network (ESN) recently chose Marketpath CMS as the website content management system for its new website.  The new ESN website was designed by an internal staff member and is heavily reliant on jQuery technology to give a sense of interactivity with the website visitor.  A rotating image gallery, a project selector, and a scrolling partnership list are all part of the ESN homepage, which can help convey a large amount of information on a relatively small area.  Other features of the site include a password protected partner area, a micro-site dedicated to one of ESN's projects (Project Plug-IN), a fully integrated calendar, and an easy-to-use blog which all make the job of bring clean technology to market just a little easier for ESN.

  Energy Systems Network

Marketpath was able to take the new designs from ESN and implement them into Marketpath CMS within a few weeks, giving control of all of the site's content to ESN's Manager of Communication.  ESN's staff is now trained on Marketpath CMS and fully supported if any issues arise.  

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Open Source CMS and Security Issues

Posted 11:40 AM by

We have discussed this topic before, but because it was thrown into the lime light over the weekend, I thought I would again touch on the pros and cons of Open Source CMS platforms.  Over the weekend, PBS.org's homepage was taken over by a group of hackers that gained access by exploiting the security flaws in the open source content management system that the site is built upon.  The hackers changed the content to include a fake news story about rapper Tupac Shakur being alive in New Zealand, which of course spread like wildfire around social media sites.  While creating a fake news story may seem harmless, it did showcase the security risk that all open source CMS platforms must deal with, source code that is open to the public.

HackerWith thousands of developers working with standardized source code to tweak and customize the program, coders often times find loopholes which will allow them access to your data.  In an article from Information Week, it was stated that MoveableType, the CMS platform that PBS.org uses, had a security update just seven days before the attack, but PBS administrators failed to apply the patch - a problem that proprietary systems or software-as-a-service content management systems can automatically remedy.

There are certain situations, mostly depending on the type of site, where open source CMS platforms probably aren't suitable.  A few of those situations might include:

  • School Websites - Sure, the "free" price tag of open source is always enticing, however, with the amount of free tools available to help someone hack an open source CMS driven site, a school's website could be an easy target for a student prank.

  • Financial Institutions - Anytime that someone's personal financial data is involved, open source should not be an option.  This is pretty much a no-brainer.

  • Government Websites - Any site that could contain an individual's personal data, or prompt them to enter it should be completely secure.  An interesting exception to this category, however, is the Whitehouse.gov site which is run on Drupal, an open source platform.
It should be noted that proprietary CMS platforms aren't immune to attack.  However, since the source code is usually unfamiliar to the hacker, the task becomes more difficult.  What are your thoughts on the issue of security?   
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Focus on Content

Posted 3:44 AM by

When you first launched your website, you may have won new visitors by performing some basic on-site search engine optimization and you may have interested a few readers to complete a call to action. But at some point, you hit a plateau where new visitor counts and conversions never rose above a certain threshold. This is what I call "flatline marketing."

Return on website - It's all about contentAt the beginning, you had so much energy, excitement and passion for the new website launch. You committed to always improving the site and figuring out how to maximize its return. But that excitement and passion quickly waned when day-to-day fires and floods crept back into the spotlight. The website was left stranded without a captain, without a champion, without a chance - flatlined.

This is where content is king. Without content, your visitors have little to engage with and little reason to return. Content's purpose is to attract readers, viewers, or listeners and ultimately get them to convert into customers, donors, members, etc. Here are four questions to ask yourself when planning content creation for your website.

Why?

Why will people want to digest what you write? Is it because you are the foremost expert on the subject? Is it because you are witty? Is it because you are providing an answer to their questions or solving a particular set of problems? The important thing is to always remember who you're writing for.

Who?

You are asking for people to give you a slice of their extremely valuable time and attention. Make sure you are targeting the right people and make sure what you are providing benefits your readers.

What?

Content can take the form of blog posts, white papers, case studies, videos, podcasts, infographics, articles in industry publications, and more. Will you stick to one or use more than one? You might try them all and see which ones give you the best engagement scores.

When?

How often will you generate content? Stick to a schedule you can keep and don't overpromise. Sending out a weekly newsletter might be too much but sending a monthly or quarterly newsletter might be more achievable. Because blogs are often conversational in their tone, writing a new post each week should be considered. Videos are expensive and time consuming but generally have higher engagement than other forms of content.

 

Whatever plans you put in place, put a captain at the helm. You need someone to stick to a schedule and rally the troops. Without a captain, your efforts will surely flatline.

 

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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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Effectively Leveraging QR Codes in Your Marketing

Posted 9:10 AM by

QR codes are beginning to pop up everywhere these days, and for good reason.  These 2D barcodes are easy to scan (with the right device) and much easier for the user to interact with than a clunky mobile web browser.  Quickly scanning the image can deliver extremely targeted content directly to the user when he/she is in the market for it, making a conversion much easier for the QR code provider.  However, with any new technology (barcodes aren't new, but utilizing them in this manner sure is), there are questions around how to most effectively utilize these simple tools.  Here are a few recommendations on getting the most out of your QR Codes:

Make Sure You Can Create Effective Landing Pages

As a consumer, if I'm scanning your QR code on a piece of print material, I'm thinking I had better not be directed to your homepage only to have to search your website for what I was looking for.  Among other destinations (videos, coupons, etc), QR codes give you the ability to deliver a highly targeted landing page with content that is connected to the particular advertisement.  If you cannot create landing pages on your site, it is time to invest in a content management system to allow for this.  Keep in mind this landing page should also have a call to action...what do you want the user to do when they arrive?  Buy?  Fill out a form? Call you?  Whatever the call to action is, make sure it is apparent.


QR code example - Need an easy way to create effective landing pages?

Ensure the Destination of the QR Code Adds Value for the User

This doesn't always have to be some sort of coupon or discount for your services, but those seem to be some of the most popular items for QR codes right now.  Everyone loves free stuff, so if you're just dipping your toes into a QR code campaign, this is probably the safest option to gain traction and make the promotion worthwhile.  For more on this, Jay Baer of Convince and Convert had a great article about a sandwich shop using QR codes during an Easter promotion that I recommend checking out.

Be Creative

Sounds simple, right?  This tip goes back to the "don't send the user to your website's homepage" recommendation.  A user that is willing to scan a QR code on an advertisement is inherently curious by nature.  The content that greets them should be unique, fresh, and captivating...not the same boiler plate sales information that is featured on the rest of your website.  Creating something that is both entertaining and engaging is a critical step in successfully utilizing QR codes.  

Have you utilized QR codes yet?  If so, how effective was the campaign?  Leave your thoughts below.      

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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 Challenge of Rapid Growth and How a Multithreaded Publisher Saved the Day

Posted 5:49 AM by

When we launched generation 3 of Marketpath CMS in 2007 we didn't have a huge number of customers making simultaneous updates to their websites. As time went on and our user base continued to grow rapidly we ran into problems. The publishing mechanism for our web content management system was built as a single-threaded publishing service. This means only one page (or other asset) could be published at one time - a bottleneck. This was fine 98% of the time. And it was fine as long as users were only publishing one item at a time. The problem came about when we had multiple users (usually developers) republishing entire sites. This caused a delay for anyone publishing and began to happen more and more frequently.

Single Threaded (one at a time)


The diagram below shows a single-threaded publishing model. There are four users and three sites. User 1 publishes three files. Users 2 and 3 publish one file each. User 4 publishes 2 files. Users 1 and 2 publish to separate sites. Users 3 and 4 publish to the same site. All four users and all seven pages form a line and then get published one at a time. Imagine a site with hundreds of pages gets publishes first. With a single-threaded publishing agent, everybody must wait at the back of the line until all those pages have been sent.

Web content management - single threaded publishing

Multithreaded (one at a time per user)

Now, take a look at the diagram below. This is a multithreaded publishing model. Each user gets their own thread. Think of a thread as a line or queue. If we have four queues instead of just one, publishing is much quicker. The user who publishes an entire site of pages simply has to wait for those pages to complete before anything else from their queue will be published. But she can keep adding items to the queue without affecting other users. Those other users just publishing one page at a time don't wait for the first user's site to be published. They only have their own pages in their own queue.

web content management - multithreaded publishing

Other Challenges with a Rapidly Growing User Base

This is one of the many challenges of a rapidly growing user base. There are technical challenges with software. This post touches on both scalability and availability. Some others are load balancing, load testing, usability, and security. Then there are operational challenges, such as sales, support, bililng, etc. We have a great team here at Marketpath and one of the basic rules of thumb for measuring great employees is how well they perform under stress (i.e. rapid growth) but also how well they perform when the work is predictable. Luckily, we don't have too much of that! We like to keep it interesting here.

Since we're very near the month of May and the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 I'll leave you with one of my favorite quotes:

If everything seems under control, you're just not going fast enough.

- Mario Andretti

 

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Increasing Conversion Rate Series - 5 Features of Great Calls to Action

Posted 6:54 AM by

Having a great call to action on each page of your site is an essential factor for today's website-centric marketing efforts. An effective call to action can be the difference between a visitor bouncing off your website, or a visitor converting and continuing the conversation.  Whether your conversion is getting someone to subscribe to your newsletter, pick up the phone, download a white paper, or buy a product, there are attributes of successful calls to action to keep in mind when implementing yours.  Here are 5 of them, in no particular order of importance:

Great Calls to Action

 

Make the button BIG

This tip should make sense without much explanation.  A larger button will stand out more from text, decreasing the chance that someone simply overlooks it.  If you have the ability to do so, testing different sizes of conversion buttons should be done to see what the optimal proportions are. 

Utilize Negative Space and Alternate Colors

Used in conjunction with a large button, negative or white space can also help draw the eye to the call to action.  Enhancing this even further, choosing an different color for the button that stands out compared to the main color palate of the site will help it gain the attention of the reader.  Think bold, bright, contrasting colors...

Position the Call to Action High on the Page

The call to action button should definitely be above the fold, but this may not be enough.  Keeping the call to action in the high center or high right side of the page is a good idea as this has become the trend for placement over the past years.  Website visitors are familiar with this placement and changing it could cause them to overlook the button.  If your page is longer, however, you might want to implement multiple calls to action throughout the content of the page.  As a reader scrolls down, the call to action on the top of the page will disappear from view, so giving visitors another opportunity to act is always a good idea.

Use Actionable Language

The call to action should feature language that clearly lays out what you want the user to do.  If your conversion is a visitor subscribing to a newsletter, use the phrase "Subscribe Now".  If you want users to donate to your cause, try out "Please Donate" or "Donate Now".  Using verbs such as call, buy, download, register, and find out all help encourage the website visitor to act.

Place the Call to Action on Each Page

This tip reverts back to an earlier post that conversions don't necessarily happen on the homepage.  The same goes for a call to action.  There is a good chance that each website visitor will interact with your website in a unique way.  While there are analytics tools that can help you predict which pages get the most traffic, you can never be certain that each visitor will be ready to act at the same point in your site.  For this reason, it is important that you give them the option to "Subscribe Now" or "Download a Whitepaper" (or whatever your call to action is) on whatever page they decide to take action.  

Calls to action can often times be the determining factor in how successful a website is, once a user arrives.  Following these steps can help you ensure that your website has the best chance to do its job.  One thing to keep in mind, however, is that a call to action button should be tested and optimized to find out what combination of factors (size, colors, verbage, placement) converts the best.  Whether you do this manually, or utilize a call to action optimizing tool, it is an important step in increasing conversion rates.

 

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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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Dumpster Diving for Quality Online News Articles

Posted 4:12 AM by

Ten years ago online articles would be mostly about the article. Depending on the source, there would be a few ads here and there. But today, the content on those pages have pushed the boundaries of what's tolerable - at least for me. Banner ads, related articles, banner ads, never-ending navigation, sponsored links, social media sharing tools, most popular articles, more banner ads, latest videos, most commented articles, recommended stories, another banner ad, etc. You get the point. Article driven websites just have a lot of garbage.

I read all the time that the way we consume information is changing and it's no wonder why. We are forced, more than ever, to visually target the content with which we have an interest. We have to cut through all the clutter and distractions to find what we want. It's sort of like dumpster diving. We know there's a lot of trash to sort through but surely there are a couple good items within!

Take a look at the example below (my inspiration for this post). This is an article from MSN Money. The black areas are ads. This site only has two. The blue areas contain links to other (possibly related) content. The grey is just a logo banner. The yellow, though, is the content. And if you look at the article navigation just below that, it shows this is page 1 of 14. Are you kidding me?! Each page has about one paragraph before the page break occurs. Does that really need a page break? I don't think so.

Example of the clutter on a typical news site

 

One of the goals we always preach to our customers is to limit the number of clicks required of their visitors. The more clicks there are the more visitors drop off. It's a simple formula. But many news sites just don't seem to get it. I suppose it is ingrained from their history in print, that is, the "story continued on pg 31" mindset. The idea is that the more pages they can direct a reader to the more ads they will see. More impressions = more ad revenue. That's a simple formula too but it shouldn't share the same revenue formula as on the web.

We also preach about design and clear separation of content. On any given page, you have two main pieces of content. The article (or post, instructions, description, product overview, or other informational tidbit) is one piece. The other is the call to action. Both should be well balanced. Granted, I understand a news site is all about driving readers to consume more news and to click on the paid links, so it is a bit different goal than most. But that doesn't mean they have to break up a page into 80 different parts.

My whole point here is to show the content in full. Don't break it up. If your ads, sponsored links, social media sharing functions, and peripheral navigation all take up more than half of your page then you should rethink what actual value you're delivering to your readers. A Choose Your Own Adventure book does a better job of engaging and directing readers.

Here's an exercise similar to my image above. Take an article or post or product page on your website and overlay all the non-essential elements like I did above in black. Overlay the relevant areas with yellow. Does your page look balanced? Will your reader get distracted or confused and then leave, increasing your bounce rate? If you have more than half the page in black, then you should rethink your arrangement. You want to keep readers, not push them away.

 

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Increasing Conversion Rate Series - Conversions Don't Happen on the Homepage

Posted 9:23 AM by

There is a good chance that if you're even thinking about redesigning your website, your current site is underperforming and not helping to convert visitors to customers.  There are many things that can cause a site to underperform, and fixing these issues might require more than a design face-lift. After all, a pig wearing lipstick is still a pig, right?  Over the next few weeks, I am going to focus on seemingly simple topics that can help you increase your conversion rate.  This week's topic is realizing that true conversions don't occur on your homepage.  

Increasing Conversion Rates

Often times during website redesign projects the majority of the attention is given to the homepage.  While the homepage is the flagship of your brand, the point of your homepage is to get visitors to click- through to other information, leaving the page that the majority of discussions stemmed from.  Now, I'm not saying that the homepage is unimportant.  The site's usability is determined by the homepage layout.  Factors like branding, menu layout, and site hierarchy are all determined during the design phase of the homepage...but more needs to be taken into account.  Make sure you determine how you want users to interact with your site.

As an example, let's say that a successful conversion for your site is getting someone to swap their information for a whitepaper download.  This can be a very powerful lead generation technique.  You get their name, organization, contact information and the topic they are interested in (based on the topic of the white paper), and they get the download.  Even trade, right?  So, where do you put this form and download button?  Well, if you want it to do well, you'd put it on the subpage the user was already interested in that had information about the same topic.  This content should spark interest and convince the person that giving their information is well worth the trade.

Your homepage should guide users to the specific content they are interested in, not try to convert every visitor that gets there, especially if your business has a multiple service offerings.  Sure, including calls to action, such as "See a Demo", "Find out why", and "Schedule Today"  can all help point users in the right direction, but the targeted content on those linked pages is what will truly help convert a visitor to a customer.

 
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What is Web Engagement Management (WEM)?

Posted 12:12 PM by

Every few years marketers coin a new phrase that starts to stick. The next thing you know you're throwing the phrase around like an old dodgeball (the old kind that was made of hard rubber and really hurt when it smacked you in the face). If you know the phrase, it doesn't land hard, but if you don't, you look a little silly nodding your head like you understand while your brain tries to decode it. Today's phrase is "Web Engagement Management."

In a nutshell, if web content management was Barry Bonds before "supplements," web engagement management is Barry Bonds after. Web engagement management (WEM) has web content management at its core but extends on that core by adding measurement and personalization. It also ties in social media, lead generation, and testing best practices. CMS Wire has a nice article about it: The 5 Pillars of Web Engagement Management. What does this all mean? It means your job as a marketer is about to get harder and more confusing... at first, anyway.

Web engagement  management - Marketpath, IncWEM is about observiing, measuring, and responding to your website visitors' behaviors. It is about knowing them and targeting content that is highly relevant and gets them to convert more often. But that's fairly standard stuff when it comes to website marketing. We've been doing that a long time, so what's different? WEM, as a tool, brings together previously disparate technologies to capture and manage the distribution of leads, personalizes the visitor experience by pulling external profile data, and manages the new two-way, three-way, or X-way conversations from outside social channels (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc).

This is where website marketing has always been difficult. Plugging into external systems is expensive, difficult, and often takes a great deal of time to build. In addition, having the broad vision and understanding of how all these puzzle pieces fit together is not typically in the standard marketer's toolbox. The great direct marketing folks (whether snail mail or email) get it and don't have much trouble making these connections. Those who have more focused or single channel roles, though, will have a harder time seeing this large marketing maze in their minds. So, there is a lot of learning to do.

The bad news is that web content management toolsets who claim to be evolving into web engagement management don't make it easy... yet. There are tools available that offer these types of integrations but they are typicallly reserved for the big guys with deep pockets and they are still separate tools. If you are one of these big guys, then good for you. For the rest of us, we'll probably just need to wait a bit longer until the tools have caught up with the need or jump in, get your feet wet, and start learning now.

The goal to all web content management software companies, inclluding Marketpath, is to build web engagement management into the core of their systems and to simplify the difficulties of execution. It willl take a few years before all the kinks are worked out and the systems operate in a standard simplistic fashion. But if you wait until then, you will very likely be leaving money on the table. Get started now and work with the tools available. Your early adoption now will mean experience and better decision making later when all the other marketers are just getting started.

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Focusing Your Efforts on Foundational SEO

Posted 9:19 AM by

Foundational SEO It is no secret that the way Google ranks sites is constantly evolving and changing.  It has been doing so since its inception more than a decade ago, which is a good thing.  Think about it, the web has changed dramatically over this same time.  We've seen websites evolve from online brochures to true marketing hubs for companies and organizations.  We've seen the power of e-commerce truly emerge with companies like Amazon leading the charge.  We've seen the dawn of a new technology called social networking and with it, have seen a site like Facebook become insanely popular.  Google had to change the way it ranks sites to keep up, but one thing they haven't changed is their mission:  Delivering the most relevant results to searchers as fast as possible.  

While Google changes its algorithm to better suit today's searchers, site owners are often left wondering what they can be sure of when it comes to ranking well.  For instance, Google may have just lowered the value of keyword heavy domains to give an equal opportunity for truly branded websites (think buy-hiking-shoes.com vs. zappos.com). Putting your entire stake in registering that perfect domain name might not matter so much.  This is just one example of a recent change, but you can rest assured that there are certain things that will remain important to Google, and those are:

  1. Content
    Nothing new here...content is king.  Creating unique, relevant content and promoting it through your website, blogs, emails, press releases, and social media can help establish your site as the expert on a given topic.  Make sure to establish a schedule for this content creation, and stick to it.
  2. On-Page SEO
    Structuring your website with good on-page SEO not only helps search engines determine what your website is about, it also helps visitors navigate your site properly.  A website without good URL structure, Title Tags, Heading Tags, etc, is like a city without street signs.  Try navigating a city for the first time without any guidance...the same thing happens when people land on your un-structured website.  Don't assume website visitors know what you do or sell.
  3. Links
    Counting the number of incoming links that a website has is the idea that separated the quality of Google's search rankings from all of the other players in the late 90's.  More links equaled more authority about a topic, which equaled better results for the searcher.  While the idea of counting links still exists, it is much more complex (this is still an understatement).  Simply having a lot of inbound links isn't what is important.  PageRank of the linking site, anchor text, placement of the link, and relevance are all taken into account now.  Attracting links these days should be done organically, by creating great content and promoting it through popular channels on the web.           

Since Google started, these three items have been a major part of the algorithm.  All signs are pointing to the fact that this will never change.  Sure, other factors influence ranking, and this list over simplifies the criteria, but focusing on great content, good website structure, and promotion of that content is a great start for any website looking to increase relevant traffic.

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Understanding the Bounce Rate

Posted 12:00 PM by

The bounce rate is the percentage of people who visit a single page of your website and then leave without venturing further. Every website has a bounce rate, including yours. It is an inescapable facet of website marketing. How you keep your bounce rate down, though, requires an understanding of why people bounce, or leave, in the first place.

Let's use an example. Marketpath has a front page with a blog feed, a few calls to action, and the usual site navigation and miscellaneous links. If a visitor arrives at our site, quickly scans the home page, and then realizes we are not what he was looking for, then he will leave and add one more tick to the total number of bounces. On the other hand, if he hits the home page, sees a link that pertains to his interests and clicks on it, he is no longer a bounce. The moment he visits that second page he is an engaged visitor and our bounce rate goes down.

Example of a High Bounce Rate

Understanding the bounce rate sampleThere are certain conditions, though, where you may not have a choice but to endure a higher bounce rate.  Look at the example on the right. The bounce rate is horrendous as far as bounce rates go. But this is the bounce rate of a bank that receives 400-700 hits per day. They have a very high bounce rate because they have the link to an external banking portal right on the home page. Most people visit a bank's website to log into their banking portal.

To improve this the bank could move the portal link to an inner page. Visitors would then have to click through and would not be registered as a bounce. As website marketers, though, we are supposed to eliminate clicks, not increase them, so this really isn't the solution. Another possible fix is to have the link open in a new window. Then the bank's website would still be open below and the visitor could jump back to browse through it. Think about the visitor, though. They just want to check their bank account and have no interest in browsing the site. So, most of the time they will just close the window after closing the account portal window. A better, more difficult solution, is to educate their customers on the "portal URL" so they stop increasing the main website's bounce rate. If the portal URL is long and difficult, a vanity URL could easily be created to redirect them and they will never know the difference (e.g. "www.mybankportal.com").

Lowering a High Bounce Rate

Most organizations don't have an external link on their home page; therefore, it's easier to interpret the data. Here are a few things to consider when trying to lower your webite's bounce rate:

  1. Review your copy. If you haven't had your website reviewed by a professional marketer and copywriter in a while this is probably a great first step. If budgets don't permit then buy a copywriting book and apply its principles to your site. I recommend Robert Bly and his book The Copywriter's Handbook. The point here is that your copy needs to sell your visitors to keep them moving along through your site. If you don't engage them and entice them to learn more then they will bounce.
  2. Review calls to action.  This also falls under the copy item above but is a little more specific and important. Everything matters on your home page or landing pages. Every element is important but few are as important as calls to action. For example, simple calls to action are "Buy now," "Call us now," "Sign up," or "Enter to win".

    Every page has a headline or a title with supporting copy. Home pages usually have several headlines that are meant to catch the visitor's eye and lead them in the direction they are most interested. These headlines and supporting copy provide a foundation of trust before visitors hit any calls to action. Imagine landing on a page that has just two words, "Buy Now!" or more words "Sign up for our organic newsletter" . Both are valid calls to action but without any supporting material behind them the chances of getting conversions are slim to none.

    The wording of your calls to action also matters a great deal. Make them simple, concise, and motivating. Once clicked, these should lead to some mechanism that converts those visitors by them signing up for a newsletter, buying a product, or providing some bit of information to you to begin the next stage of your relationship.
  3. Website bounce rates and conversion flow - Marketpath Inc

  4. Don't trick people into visiting your website - or at least know the consequences. Many organizations use unrelated keywords to drive people to their website. For example, a Nissan automotive dealer might target keywords for Toyota and Honda in his area. The thinking goes like this: "if someone is looking for a Toyota and clicks on our Nissan link (which really says Toyota), they might stay for a bit and change their mind about the Toyota." See the trick? It's used in search marketing all the time. You could also use this but you have to realize that you will have a very high bounce rate. When those tricked visitors hit your site most will become annoyed that it's not a Toyota site and will leave. Your bounce rate will suffer accordingly by going up.

  5. Monitor referrers and search terms. If you don't know where your visitors are coming from then how do you write targeted content for them? If 50% of your visitors come from search traffic and the majority of those find you with one particular search phrase (your analytics package will tell you this) then your home page or landing page copy should sell to those individuals. Lumping everyone into one large bucket will lead to a watered down effect. The more specific you can be in your headlines, copy, and calls to action, the more success you'll have resulting in fewer bounces.

  6. Test. If you can narrow down your headlines, supporting copy, and calls to action, then you can test. A/B testing or multi-variate testing are both great ways to measure the results of multiple content versions to see which performs better. You should always test before making big changes. But, if you are a small company with limited time, or you are a "ready, fire, aim!" type of marketer (like me), then be sure to make smaller incremental changes to your site so you can properly measure the impact. If you make a bunch of changes at once without any testing you'll be left wondering which of those changes made the difference in your improved results.

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Content Form and Function; A little back story

Posted 9:58 AM by

Louis Sullivan | Balancing Form and Function

The theme of this blog is based primarily on the 100+ year old phrase "Form (ever) follows function." The origin of the phrase dates back to Louis Sullivan's 1896 article "The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered." The great American architect believed that a building's shape should be primarily based on its intended function. The credo was taken to imply that decorative elements were superfluous in modern buildings. However, Sullivan himself neither thought nor designed along such dogmatic lines during the peak of his career. Indeed, while his buildings could be spare and crisp in their principal masses, he often punctuated their plain surfaces with eruptions of lush Art Nouveau and Celtic Revival decorations.

While those principles made sense for much of the last century for buildings and objects alike, times have changed a little. Digital technology provides us with many more functions to be squeezed into smaller and smaller spaces. As a designer and content architect, I too strive to first consider the "function" a website or page before giving in to my more creative desires. After all, creative embellishments are primarily subjective.

To be an effective web designer is to hold content form and function in relative balance. However, we must first consider the purpose of the content we're authoring. Only once we're confident that we understand it's purpose, are we free to make it look better.




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Marketpath Named 2011 Innovation of the Year Finalist

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Mira Awards FinalistMarketpath is excited to be named as one of three finalists for the 2011 Innovation of the Year Award as part of Techpoint's 12th annual Mira Awards initiative. The Mira Awards, which recognize excellence and achievement of Indiana's outstanding technology industry performers, annually include some of the technology industry's leading companies and individuals.

Marketpath is being recognized this year for a comprehensive internet marketing solution for automotive dealers, developed in conjunction with DriveVelocity, a Marketpath partner who specializes in marketing automation for the auto industry. The solution, branded "Customer Relation Automation," seamlessly integrates a dealer's website, campaign management, and CRM into a cost-effective and measureable solution to dramatically enhance the dealer's communications and marketing. The groundbreaking system seamlessly integrates previously disparate systems and processes, to drive customer interactions and enhanced service, while more clearly measuring results. Customer Relation Automation communicates and gathers data at key touch-points, providing a personalized, multi-channel experience for a dealer's prospects and customers, adding value and enhancing their experience throughout the customer life-cycle.

Congratulations also to Exact Target and i2iConnect, the other finalists for this year's Innovation of the Year Award. Stayed tuned until May 7th, when the winner will be revealed at the Mira Awards Gala. Marketpath looks forward to developing more innovative web marketing solutions in the future.

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The amazing capabilities of jQuery UI (Part 1)

Posted 9:10 AM by

The abillities of jQuery's UI 1.8.x series is amazing. Some of the built-in features of the UI are tabs, dialogs, datepickers, accordion, sortable items, and draggable items to name a few.

Tabs

On our project management site, Nexus, we use the tabs feature of jQuery's UI for our project details screen (see below).

Marketpath Nexus' Project Details Page

Creating the tabs is a very simple jQuery function call (see below). In addition to this basic function call to tabs, there are other settings using JSON that can be set to fully customize the tabs. Also you can use ThemeRoller or your own custom styles to make the tabs look more integrated into the website's design and layout.

$('#tabs').tabs();

In the HTML code, the tabs are set up as seen below.

<div id="tabs">
     <ul>
          <li><a href="#tabs-1">Tab 1</a></li>
          <li><a href="#tabs-2">Tab 2</a></li>
          <li><a href="#tabs-3">Tab 3</a></li>
     </ul>
     <div id="tabs-1">
          Content in Tab 1
     </div>
     <div id="tabs-2">
          Content in Tab 2
     </div>
     <div id="tabs-3">
          Content in Tab 3
     </div>
</div>

As you can see, jQuery does all the styling and it saves a lot of time. For more examples using tabs, visit the jQuery UI Tabs demo page.

Dialog

In addition to using tabs in Nexus, we also use dialogs provided by the jQuery UI (see below).

Marketpath Nexus' Project Details Dialog

The dialogs are created the same way in jQuery as are tabs (see below). There are also options which are passed in to help customize the dialog's look and feel.

$('#dialog').dialog();

In the HTML code, the tabs are set up as seen below.

<div id="dialog" title="Basic dialog">
     <p>This is the default dialog which is useful for displaying information.</p>
</div>

The dialog can be any size and can be positioned to appear in a specific location on the page at the time of the dialog's crteation. In addition, dialogs, by default, have an 'OK' button but jQuery dialogs can have customized buttons. Also, you can bind functions to events such as adding a function that saves data in a dialog when the user closes the dialog.

Conclusion

Instead of reinventing the wheel with Javascript objects, check out jQuery's UI and see what has already been done. It will save you a lot of time in development.

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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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Great Content is the Only Constant

Posted 6:15 AM by

There has been a lot of news lately about the recent Google update that was aimed at devaluing content farms out on the web.  Sites that simply aggregated content from other sources were hit hard in the rankings for terms that drove most of their traffic.  While there were undoubtedly some good sites that were adversely effected by the update, the change in Google's algorithm just reinforced one of the lessons that Google's engineers, like Matt Cutts, have been preaching over the years...Google's mission is to deliver the best sites on the web to the people using its search engine.  These sites offer unique content, case studies, and add something of substance to the conversation.  This has always been their mission, and no matter what they decide to change in their algorithm, you can rest assured that their mission won't change.

Even though your site probably wasn't affected by the recent update, use this opportunity to look at your site.  Sure you want it to rank for your related key phrases, but does it really deserve to?  The key here is to be honest.  When is the last time that you updated the content?  How long has it been since you changed something on your homepage?  What value are you offering to a searcher who lands on your site for the first time? 

If your site doesn't earn a passing grade on these three simple questions, don't worry, there is help out there.  First things first, you need an internet marketing plan.  Jumping in head first without some sort of process or idea of what to update is a recipe for disaster.  Once you have the plan, you need to assign the roles within your organization or who is responsible for content creation and updating the site.  If your site isn't utilizing a content management system, it is time to invest in one.  This will allow for quick and easy updates, and depending on which system you choose, won't be a burden on your IT staff. 

Your website is a living breathing marketing tool that deserves attention.  It is the hub (or should be) of all other marketing efforts.  The Internet landscape is constantly evolving and because of this, the days of a static, brochure website have come and gone.  It is time to embrace being the expert of your industry and add something to the conversation.  If you can commit to a schedule of content creation, you can rest assured that Google will probably take note and reward you for your efforts.

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Bandwidth Galore!

Posted 8:41 AM by

The office got a big boost today when we had Comcast Business Class installed.

There are nine people in our office so this is less about bandwidth consumption at the office and more about external connectivity outside the office. When our people can work efficiently anytime of the day from anywhere in the world, we become much more productive. Everything works smoother - website browsing, file uploads, VPN, online backup, email, watching Family Guy reruns, playing Call of Duty, and many other equally important tasks.

I feel sort of like we just moved into a bigger house. What are we going to do with all this room! I'm sure we'll figure out how to fill every corner with junk!

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Four Easy Steps to Pull All Your Hair Out with Sharepoint

Posted 4:52 AM by

Yesterday, I received a link to a series of articles that made me bust out laughing - "SharePoint 2010 in Four Easy Steps."

Fact #1, nothing about Sharepoint is easy.
Fact #2, SharePoint could never be installed in only four steps.

Here are their four easy steps:

  1. Prepare
  2. Migrate
  3. Manage
  4. Customize

That's like saying "How to build a skyscraper in four easy steps!" Step 1 - Prepare; Step 2 - Design; Step 3 - Build; Step 4 - Finish. There's a good title of a book - "Skyscrapers for Dummies!"

I really get the oversimplified marketing message, though, because we do it ourselves - "Click, Edit, Publish - Web Content Management. Made Easy." Everyone does this especially when selling complex products or services. You have to oversimplify it so your prospects can quickly relate and understand. But what truly irks me about this is saying Sharepoint is easy in any way whatsoever. I can't begin to count how many customers we have gained coming from a disastrous Sharepoint implementation.

Before I continue bashing Sharepoint, though, let me acknowledge it's benefits. Sharepoint certainly has its place in the world. It is a very powerful tool for managing corporate intranets, document repositories, and team collaboration. I've used it in the past and recognized its unique contribution.
In the past, we've used it internally and would continue to do so if the installation and maintenance wasn't so resource intensive and difficult. You really need to have an expert on staff or outsourced to install, manage, and troubleshoot it. But it has a very long way to go before it is an easy-to-use tool for marketers managing the corporate/product website.

And that's the point - using Sharepoint to manage your public website can be a nightmare. Before making the decision to use this for your website make sure you ask for references from other customers who are currently using it and even from customers who have moved away from it. You need the real truth before you drop big bucks on installing an overly complex system. And if you do move forward, be sure to have a reserve fund setup to pay the company that picks up all the pieces and puts you into a system that works.


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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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The Problem With Company Facebook Pages

Posted 9:05 AM by

Facebook Only Web Strategy is Dangerous
I read an article this morning that asked the question "Will Facebook Replace Company Websites?" While the company focused mostly on big brands and B2C companies, and how they were leveraging Facebook effectively, I still find it hard to believe that any company would completely abandon their web presence for a Facebook based strategy.  I have a few questions for anyone who says otherwise...


What happens when Facebook decides to change something major?

Since Facebook is a private company (for the moment), they have complete say over the direction they take their product.  While I don't think they would do anything too drastic to endanger the brands that have bought in to the "Facebook is the next best thing" strategy, it is still up to them what does change.  What if they start charging your company based upon the amount of likes?  After all, it is basically free advertising.  Do they do away with "likes" completely, as they did with "fans"?  Does your company really want to rely solely on another company (Facebook) for success?  All of these things are out of a company's control, unlike a standalone website.


Why does your Facebook page have an ad for your competitor?

Because Facebook's revenue is solely ad based, they have to allow this to happen.  So, if I go to the Mentos US fan page do I see ads for other brands right alongside it?  You bet I do.  The funny thing is that Mentos actually only promotes their Facebook page on TV ads now.  I'd say that a Facebook only web strategy won't allow you to completley control your brand.


If I'm not on Facebook, how do I get to and interact with your page?

No one is going to argue that there are a lot of people on Facebook, with that number growing every day.  However, the entire population of the world is not on Facebook, nor will it ever be.  Isolating your brand to solely rely on your Facebook presence limits your reach significantly.  Your webpage, on the other hand, is accessible by anyone, anytime.


These are just a few of the questions that I have, but to keep this short, I'll stop there.  You get the idea.

Now, I'm not saying that your Facebook pages have no value.  There have been multiple examples of how certain brands have leveraged large followings to reinforce brand loyalty.  As I stated earlier, however, most of those companies are B2C with well-known brands already.  It's much easier for them to make the jump into connecting with their fans out there.  Keep in mind that putting all of your efforts into one marketing channel is never a good idea.  Abandoning certain avenues to throw more time and money at the hottest thing in the industry can leave you wondering what happened to your brand if that particular social network doesn't last.  If you don't believe me, check out Marketpath's MySpace page...*

 

*Just Kidding.  Marketpath never had a MySpace Page.

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Mobilizing your Mobile Masses

Posted 6:08 PM by

 

Soon, the City of Indianapolis will be launching a mobile app so residents can easily report problems, such as, potholes, unkept lots, and rogue animals. As a resident, I applaud the city's effort to more quickly and strategically solve problems. I really hope this app includes reporting people who forget how to drive in the snow or who speed up to block you from changing lanes when you clearly had your turn signal on. Probably not, though. I'll just continue to clinch my teeth, shake my fist and curse outloud (unless the kids are in the car).

Dad's Inc Mobile Webiste by Marketpath51 million Americans ages 13 and older had a smart phone in the 3 month period ending in November 2010 (ComScore: via Information Week). If you haven't crunched the numbers that's a lot of smartphone users. Trust me, I almost majored in math. Now, according to the 2010 U.S. population census, Indiana has 2.07% of the total U.S. population - roughly 6.5 million people. The greater Indianapolis area has approximately 2 million residents (0.62% of the total U.S. population). So multiply that number by the 51 million americans with a smart phone (those mobile-using folks) and you get 316,000 residents in the Indianapolis area with smart phones. *

Besides being completely impressed with my elementary math skills I hope you see the impact this could have on your company. More and more users are consuming information on their phones and if they can't access information vital to doing business with you, but can access your competitor's, then they will quickly forget about you and jump the fence to the other side. Ooops. Sorry for your luck.

Indianapolis will use their new app in a different way and not for marketing purposes. Their app is built to help quickly identify problems, and then fix the problem so people don't have to look at ugly yards. A mobile website (which is probably more effective than a mobile app because it is device independent) will help you deliver your product or service message at just the right time. Here are a couple examples of how mobile users might get to your website:

Example #1
Joe Schmoe is a general contractor on a jobsite. His crew just broke the third Acme Pneumatic Hammer Drill and Joe is sick of it! He's heard of another brand (yours) and decides to look it up. Since he's on a jobsite, he breaks out his iphone with industrial strength rubberized protection case and jumps on the web. He Google's the name of your company, lands on your site and one of two things happen: 1) he sees a mobile optimized website and can quickly and easily find the information about your "better" product; or 2) he lands on your regular website, reception is limited and slow, and your full featured, beautiful website becomes a shrunken, barely navigable abyss of disconnected information.

Example #2
Jane Schmoe is dropping her kids off at school. She realizes, as little Sophie scrambles away, that her school clothes are getting a bit small. Since Jane has to wait for all the students to get into the building before she can leave, she jumps on her Android phone, goes to her local school uniform store's website and is either 1) redirected to a mobile optimized site that allows her to easily select new clothing and order right there; or 2) is sent to an old full featured e-commerce site where she has to constantly zoom in so she can actually click the links. After a slower loading time and difficult navigation, she gets to the clothing section, sees that all the cars are finally being let out, then abandons the website and stops at a competitor's store on the way home.

Example #3
You are speaking at a conference and have the audience's complete attention. They believe you are an expert - one that can help solve their problems. One by one, the audience is ready to sit down with you for a consultation and they begin pulling up your website on their phones. Will they be able to schedule an appointment or fill in a form expressing their interest to meet?

Pop quiz: of those three examples, which site do you think would convert better - mobile or standard?

Those are three different circumstances where a well-designed mobile website could have easily helped convert visitors into paying customers. So, the question becomes does a mobile website make sense for your company? The answer depends on your customer base, number of potential prospects, available market share, etc. If you sell million dollar industrial equipment and your customers are always mobile, then one lead from your mobile website would be easily worth the expense. If you are an in-home daycare and rely mostly on referrals and fertile parents then you probably don't need one.

In most cases, a properly designed and built mobile website doesn't have to be a huge, expensive undertaking. Mobile sites can be effective with the simplest implementation. Just like any marketing endeavor, though, you need to look at it from all angles and choose the path and strategy ** that best reaches your constituents and will lead to the most conversions. Good luck!

 

Notes:
* I realize this calculation is a big assumption on my part and there are many other variables involved but just go with it for now.
** You can read Kevin Kennedy's article, "Seven questions to ask before developing your internet marketing strategy," for a some good advice on strategy.


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The 5 Point Checklist of Selecting a CMS

Posted 5:08 PM by

With so many content management systems out on the market today, selecting one can be a daunting task.  Many times, the future users of the system are unaware of which questions to ask, or what to look for when evaluating each platform.  I have decided to put together a checklist that will help technical and non-technical users alike when the question of which CMS to use inevitably comes up.

  1. Security - This may be the most important element of selecting a CMS, depending on your type of site.  Open source systems have often times failed the security tests because anyone can develop plug-ins for these platforms.  Less experienced programmers or hackers can often times develop modules that bring along negative consequences once installed.  Hosted CMS platforms can usually alleviate these problems. 

    Also something to take into account is the user authentication process.  How many users are there?  How are they tracked? Does each have unique login credentials?
  2.  

  3. Simplicity - The choice you are making is one you will have to deal with for months or years to come.  Sure, there are a lot of simple content management systems out there, but don't take a developers word for it.  They are experienced in using their favorite platform and come from a technical background.  Make sure you push to see a demo of the product, and make sure you understand the process of updating a site, especially if you're a marketer lacking HTML knowledge. 

    Making updates to your website shouldn't be intimidating or time consuming, as that is the whole point of using a CMS.  Make sure you're comfortable with the interface and you understand how the CMS works with your specific website.
  4.  

  5. Support - When it comes down to it, all software will have problems.  Bugs are an inevitable annoyance that always seem to come up at the most important times.  Here are the questions that needs to be answered about the CMS you are choosing - What happens when I need help?  Who can I call? And finally, how much will that cost me? 

    Each platform varies in their answers to these questions.  Open source systems can be supported by the developer who set them up, but at a price.  Installed platforms have their own maintenance agreements.  Software-as-a-Service platforms, on the other hand, have the best answer for this (I know I am biased).  If something goes wrong, you call the architects of the system for the fix, at no additional charge.
  6.  

  7. Speed - When I say speed, I'm referring to the speed of implementation.  Some systems have to be set up each time a new website is built.  Some systems have to be installed on internal servers, which will inevitably take time.  Other systems, usually software-as-a-service models, are already built and running in a hosted environment.  This means the timeline to launch a website can be shortened considerably, saving time and money.

    Implementing designs and content into a hosted solution can often be done within weeks, not months. 
  8.  

  9. Scalability - How flexible is the system?  How unique is your website?  Depending on whether your site will be a brochure site or whether it will be a true marketing tool can sway your decision from one CMS to another.  Figuring out the marketing goals for your website prior to CMS evaluation is a must if you want to truly have confidence in your selected CMS.

    A few other questions to ask are - What systems need to integrate with our website?  Since the Internet is constantly changing, how do we add new functionality to our site once it has launched?

Addressing these issues early in your content management system evaluation process can guide you down the right path.  One thing to realize is that no CMS is perfect for every website, as they all have their strengths and weaknesses.  Make sure you do your research, ask questions, and see demos of each product before making your final decision. 
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10+ Things to Consider When Turning Text Into an Attractive Web Page

Posted 6:41 PM by

Web Page Design and Layout TechniquesI have to say, I sympathize with anyone tasked with taking some content, putting on a web page and having it look good. I've been doing this for a very long time so you might call it natural but to the layperson, a blank page can be an intimidating place. No matter how good your site's theme looks, you can really lose design points if you drop the ball on your page content.

I've been on the hunt for good online resources for content managers that aren't designers by trade or otherwise. It has not been easy. Every resource I've found appeals to web professionals. As they say, "if you want something done right..."

A common scenario:

Your boss just handed you a Word document containing a couple of boring paragraphs and nothing else. You have now been tasked with making this content look good. Here is a list of things to consider:

  1. Techniques of writing for the Web are used: headings, bullet points, short sentences in short paragraphs, use of white space, etc.
  2. Fonts, font sizes, and font colors are consistently used
  3. Content provides meaningful, useful information
  4. Content is organized in a consistent manner
  5. Information is easy to find (minimal clicks)
  6. Content does not include outdated material
  7. Content is free of typographical and grammatical errors
  8. Avoids the use of "Click here" when writing text for hyperlinks
  9. If standard link colors are not used, hyperlinks use a consistent set of colors to indicate visited/nonvisited status
  10. If graphics and/or media is used to convey meaning, the alternate text equivalent of the content is provided (accessibility)

Closing tip: Try to look at your text as block elements rather than just text. This will help you organize your text content as visual blocks and see how these blocks interact/relate to other elements such as images, video, content boxes, etc.




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Pros and Cons of Software as a Service Content Management Systems

Posted 9:07 AM by

Last week I discussed the pros and cons of open source web content management platforms, such as Wordpress, Drupal, and Joomla.  To continue the conversation, this post will cover the pros and cons of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) web content management systems (CMS). 

Advantages of SaaS CMS:

  1. Low cost of entry - SaaS CMS is based on a subscription model, so there is no large upfront licensing fee.  Usually, a SaaS CMS project will have a small setup fee that covers the cost of implementation.
  2. No Extra Burden on IT Staff (Supported) - When a support issue arises with a SaaS product, the burden to fix the problem no longer falls on internal staff.  The company that provides the platform is responsible for fixing the issue, most of the time at no added cost.
  3. Highly Accessible - Since SaaS CMS is usually a virtual product, they are accessible from any computer with an internet connection. 
  4. Security - Since all the development is handled by the company that owns the CMS, there is no need to worry about malware or buggy add-ons to the CMS.  If it is released by the CMS company as a feature add-on, you can rest assured that it won't expose your site to security threats.
  5. Multiple Users Model - Most SaaS products have a multiple user model, where the price will increase with the number of users given access to the system.  This is great because it is often easy to add new users to help spread out the workload.
  6. Subscription Fee Fits into Budget - Since support is often times included in the subscription model, you can rest assured knowing that the monthly fee will not increase even if something goes wrong with your website.
  7. Ongoing Innovation - All software products have innovation, however, with the SaaS, new features are added quickly and often.  Usually these features are available to all users at no additional cost.
  8. Speed of Implementation - Since the CMS is already developed, launching a new website can often times be done in as little as 30 days.  With custom functionality and e-commerce, the project lengthens a bit, but it is still extremely fast compared to traditional website development.

Disadvantages of SaaS CMS

  1. No Local Data Control - Since SaaS CMS platforms are built and housed at Data Centers, the IT staff feels like it loses a bit of control when it comes to security.  However, SaaS CMS's are built behind firewalls and are often times more secure than a company's local servers.
  2. Subscription fee is Added Cost - Since there are "free" systems out there, recurring cost is often times looked at as a downside to the SaaS model.  It is up to you to determine the value of the SaaS platform for yourself and your business.  However, I encourage you to read an earlier post about support issues.
  3. Closed Development - Since SaaS CMS platforms are often times proprietary systems that belong to certain companies, they do not allow for an open source type development model.  This means that customers must request features to be added by the company, instead of searching the internet for a plug-in that is probably already developed. 
That concludes my list of the Pros and Cons of SaaS CMS.  I believe that the days of installed software are numbered, and that open-source platforms are great for certain applications and not great for others.  It is up to you and your team when evaluating different CMS options to find the solution that best fits your project, as not one CMS platform is the universal choice for all website builds.  However, I truly believe that SaaS makes a strong case in most projects, so make sure you take a long, hard look at it as a viable option. 
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Create an Event Specific Landing Page and Custom URL with Marketpath CMS

Posted 4:31 PM by

One of the great advantages of using a web content management system is the ability to create custom landing pages for webinars, seminars, tradeshows, or other events. You probably have several of these each year and send out information to your constituents. Wouldn't it be nice to quickly create a custom landing page for each event containing all the agenda details and registration instructions? With Marketpath CMS you can. Here's how:

  1. First, right-click on the folder within which to create the page and select "New Page"

    Creating a page in Marketpath CMS

  2. Next, give the page a name. I typically name my landing pages by date of event first so they appear in chronological order (e.g. "2011-02-25 - Winter Product Showcase." While using the new page wizard be sure to select the appropriate theme and page template and do not link it to a navigational menu.

  3. Add the landing page content. Of course, it helps if you have a landing page template already provided for you but you can also do this using a full page open template like I did below. All landing pages need a way to convert visitors immediately. This one contains a simple registration form for the event. Your form may be very different from this.

    Landing page content creation with Marketpath CMS
  4. If you don't want the page to be found in the search results or shown in the sitemap, be sure to open "Properties" and uncheck the "Indexed" option before publishing.

    Search indexing of a page in Marketpath CMS
  5. Publish your changes.
  6. Now, you probably want to create an easy to remember URL for your users to access the landing page. Nobody wants to remember or type in "http://www.yoursite.com/2011-02-25-Winter-Product-Showcase". Instead, "yoursite.com/winter2011" would be much easier. To do this open the "Settings" panel and then click on the "Redirects" item under Site.

    Creating automatic redirects in Marketpath CMS
  7. Next, click the "New Redirect" button and type in the Original URL (i.e. the friendly URL). Note, this must be preceded with a forward slash indicating the root directory of the website. Select the type "Page" and then select the new landing page. You can leave "Permanent Redirect" unchecked here.

    Creating an automatic redirect within Marketpath CMS
  8. Finally, publish the new redirect by clicking the following icon.


So, there you have it. 8 simple steps to create an event-specific landing page and customized URL within Marketpath CMS. And of course, if you have any trouble, just pick up the phone. We're here to help!

 

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Seven Questions to Ask Before Developing Your Internet Marketing Strategy

Posted 12:00 AM by

The importance and complexity of the internet continues to grow every day, making a company's internet marketing strategy an even more critical part of a business's overall plan.  The web's complexity can make things especially difficult for a small business, with limited marketing and technology resources. 

Questions a Small Business Should Ask Before Developing Your Internet Marketing StrategyOver the next few weeks, I plan to write about the key components of an internet marketing strategy and various issues that should be considered when developing a small business internet marketing plan. But before you start thinking about specific strategies or tactics, you should first ask yourself (and answer) a few basic questions.

  1. How will your on-line marketing plan work with your off-line or traditional marketing?
    Sounds like a simple question, but it really depends upon your business and objectives.  Will there be synergy between on-line and off-line working together or are there completely different objectives and targets you are trying to reach?  This leads to the next question.

  2. Who are your target markets and customers?
    Are you targeting the same customers that you target off-line or different ones?  Is your ideal internet customer the same as your ideal off-line customer?  These questions depend greatly on your product and branding plans, but should be thought out prior to implementing specific tactics.

  3. How will you find your customers and/or how will they find you on-line?
    This question gets to the heart of your online strategy and plan and will also help determine where your emphasis is and how will you drive traffic to your website.  Depending on your resources and business model, you may choose to prioritize an "Outbound Marketing" vehicle such as email, relying on internal or external sources (list, database, etc.) for prospect data or you may focus more on permission-based or "Inbound Marketing" techniques such as blogs, webinars, social media, twitter, and search engine optimization.  Your plan should include a combination of inbound and outbound vehicles, but where you begin and focus will depend on various factors specific to your business.

    If you or your company are novices to online or web marketing, you will also want to familiarize yourself with search engine optimization (SEO).  Understanding key words and SEO will help to determine how your company will be found online and how prospects think about your services or products.  If your company sells commercial kitchen products, for instance, it will help to know that 18,100 searches per month are made for the keyword phrase "commercial kitchen equipment," while the phrases "restaurant equipment" and "catering equipment" receive  165,000 and 135,000 searches per month respectively.  If you understand how people think about and search for your services, you can then develop a plan to better target those prospects. Google Adwords is a great place to start, as they offer a free tool that will provide you with key word search data for any term or website.
  4. How will you support your Brand Positioning online?
    This is a very important consideration, so that you don't de-value your brand or confuse your audience for short-term gain.  For instance, if your brand is known as a high end, luxury product, you probably don't want your internet initiatives to focus mostly on price.  Or if your brand is known for providing the best service and customer support, your internet strategy should also be focused on providing innovative on-line service that out shines the competition.  Many companies have made the mistake in thinking that the internet is only about price and have damaged their long-term brand and/or company perception by completely changing their value proposition.
  5. What resources do you need to succeed?
    Who will be responsible and accountable for implementing your company's on-line plan?  Your website, email marketing, and social media initiatives won't manage themselves.  So think through both the marketing and technical skills sets you need and whether your plan will be implemented by internal staff, outside support, or a combination of both.  And realize you can take very different approaches, in regard to insourcing or outsourcing, that can both be successful.  For example, you could outsource your website to an agency that handles every little detail or you could utilize a web content management system that allows your company to update and manage the site yourself, without any technical skill set necessary.  Both choices can be effective, depending on your personnel, budgets and long-term objectives.
  6. How will you measure success?
    It is never too early to think about metrics.  Before you begin planning, try and prioritize some high level objectives.  That way, you can always go back to those goals as you are developing your plan.  Are you focusing on sales?   On leads?  Are you trying to drive business to a brick and mortar location? In regard to your website, email or social media initiatives, always think about what interactions you are trying to drive and what you want customers/visitors to do when they get to your website - buy, register, contact you, etc?
  7. What is your competition doing online?
    Regardless of the situation, it is always wise to know what your competitors are doing.  Check out their websites, sign up for their email newsletters and social media, and figure out how your company can differentiate yourselves or one up the competition.  Time spent researching on the front-end will add much greater value when your plan is implemented.

    These are only a few of the questions you should ask yourself before starting on your plan.  Some may be obvious and others quite simple, but considering them now, rather than later, will minimize your headaches along the way.
     

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    Playing Russian Roulette with Google

    Posted 10:54 AM by

    Recently, the SEO world was buzzing about a major website's search engine rankings being stripped away because of a seemingly massive breach of Google's Terms of Service. You can read a great take and explanation on the situation at SearchEngineLand.com. Here is the summary:

    Basically, Google was turned onto the fact that JCPenney.com had been engaging in link spamming on a huge scale. Google's algorithms had begun to pick up this red flag of black hat SEO, noticing that links to the JC Penney website had begun showing up everywhere on the internet (especially on sites with zero relevance to JC Penney) with some very descriptive anchor text. Later, the Google web spam team manually removed the JC Penney rankings to finish off the demotion. JC Penney claimed ignorance and fired their search engine optimization firm, who of course took no blame as well. JC Penney had lost what we all assume to be a pretty staggering sum of money and a major revenue stream, and the search engine optimization firm went on their way, with no known punishment, looking for their next target...I mean client. So, in one sentence, JC Penney was caught buying links, which is a big no-no in Google's eyes.

    Buying Links

    Who can be blamed for this? Sure, most of the blame falls to JC Penney for not doing their research on their SEO firm. Some of the blame should be shouldered by the SEO firm itself, but of course it won't be. Who else is to blame? Well, in my opinion, Google...

    Anyone who understands anything about search engine optimization understands that Google's ranking algorithm relies heavily on inbound links to a site (quality and quantity). Google states in document after document and video after video that if you want to rank something, it should be as easy as creating descriptive title tags and unique content. However, that isn't always the case. If you want to rank for a high-traffic, competitive term, you must have the links, or "votes" to do so. This is the idea that Google is based upon; it is why Google is the most trusted search engine in history. In theory, it works. It has worked. And it will continue to work (with the correct tweaking).  However, since gaining links naturally is difficult, companies feel forced to start throwing money at the problem.

    Herein lays the problem. When SEO companies began to figure this out (years ago) they shifted their services to offer link building as their main source of income. Technically, these are paid links and violate Google's terms of service. However, as long as they can mask their links in what seems like good content, they can get their client's sites to rank for hundreds, if not thousands, of terms, most of the time without getting caught (insert sympathy for JC Penney here). The ability to rank any site for any term is a powerful skill to have, and with this skill came enormous monthly fees, and in-turn, enormous profit. These SEO companies are good; some of them are REALLY good. 100% proven track records, money back guarantees, case study after case study, white paper after white paper. Ranking #1 on Google has become like a drug to some of their clients, and when something like the JC Penney fiasco occurs, they all scramble to make sure their clients are reassured that they don't do anything to violate the Terms of Service.

    I guess you can't really fault JC Penney for buying links, right? They were simply keeping up with the Joneses. If they aren't buying them, they are falling behind and losing revenue because it would be almost impossible to rank on page 1 for the term "Comforter Sets", or any of their other thousand products without the extra boost.

    A truly organic search ranking, or what we like to call "Granola SEO" in our office, is hard to come by these days. Huge, measurable ROI is the main factor playing into this dangerous game of search engine Russian roulette, and until Google figures out a way to stop it all, which they work towards on a daily basis, companies will continue to take the plunge and contract with link building companies. If you're one of these companies, keep your fingers crossed that you hired the right SEO company and that your website isn't next. In the meantime though, listen to Google, get back to the basics of why you're in business and create some great, unique content that has some substance, because we're all tired of reading spam with your link in it.

    UPDATE - One of our good friends in the SEO industry reached out to me about this article.  After hearing what he had to say, I must admit that I did paint a pretty bad picture of the entire link building practice.  There are "white hat" SEO tactics that are welcomed by Google, as it makes their job easier to wade through the sea of bad content on the Internet.  Press releases, partner site linking, and setting up social profiles to propagate content throughout the web are all ways that sites can be successful in the SEO world.  These are not link buying tactics.  There are companies out there that abide strictly by these rules and they should be looked to as the experts of the industry.

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    Pros and Cons of Open Source Content Management Systems

    Posted 6:14 PM by

    Last week, I touched a bit on the main difference, as we see it, between Open Source Content Management Systems (Joomla, Wordpress, Drupal) and Software-as-a-Service CMS's like Marketpath.  To dive a little deeper into this topic, I decided to list out a few pros and cons of the Open Source model.


    Advantages of Open Source Content Management Systems:

    Software is "free" - This is partially true. Open Source software is software that has been developed by a community of people that do not charge licensing fees for their work.

    Plug-ins - If you want to add functionality to your website, there is often a plug-in already built.  There is no need to pay for custom development.  

    Flexibility - The right tool in the right hands can be extremely powerful and flexible. Many of these open source content management systems can be set up to do just about anything. The possibility is almost endless.


    Disadvantages of Open Source Content Management Systems:


    Software is "free" - The old adage "you get what you pay for" is very appropriate here. While there is no ongoing subscription or licensing fee, Open Source technology often takes tens of thousands of dollars to set up properly. Plus, who do you call to fix the software when a bug is found? The open source development community may eventually provide a fix but there are no guarantees as to when.

    Plug-in security issues - Some of the plug-ins work better than others, but you can never be sure until you install it. If it doesn't work, however, there is nobody to call for technical support - you're on your own. It seems that not a week goes by where you don't hear or read about a major security flaw either on a prominent website, or with the content management system itself.

    Updating versions - Often times, these open source systems need to be updated to work properly. Updating the open source CMS behind the scenes of a website can often times cause problems on the website itself.

    Steep learning curve - Many of these systems have a steep learning curve, as they are built with the developer in mind, not the non-technical marketer. It is possible to learn any system, but these more technical systems can often times lead to frustration and lack of use.

    Have any other advantages or disadvantages of Open Source systems? Let us know in the comments section below.


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    Personal Introduction and 'How jQuery is the best library ever'

    Posted 2:00 PM by

    Hi. My name is Larry Tylenda, and I am one of the developers working at Marketpath. I officially began working full-time at Marketpath on January 3, 2011, but have interned for Marketpath since December 2008. I graduated form the University of Indianapolis in December 2010. I majored in Computer Science and Mathematics and I love programming and learning about math and technology.

    In this post, I will be talking about jQuery and its amazing capabilities.

    jQuery Logo

    jQuery is a JavaScript library used to join common lengthy JavaScript techniques into a simple syntax. An example of this would be to grab all of the items in a list and change the background of all the items to blue. With regular JavaScript this would be:

    var arrItems = document.getElementsByTag('li');
    for(var i = 0; i < arrItems.length; i++)
    {
        arrItems[i].style.backgroundColor = "#0000FF";
    }

    but with jQuery the code would be:

    $('li').css('backgroundColor','#0000FF');

    As you can see, jQuery makes things simpler and is faster to use. Also, its selector options are far greater than just plain JavaScript. say there were two lists on the page. then the first block of code would need a conditional statement to check if it is a child of one list or another. With jQuery, all you would have to do is change 'li' in the second block of code to '#<%%LIST-ID%%> li'. So instead of adding a whole conditional statement and lengthening the amount of code in your document, you can use jQuery's extensive selecors to find the element or elements that you wish to edit or select.

    Next week I will be talking about jQuery's amazing UI. Until then, I encourage you to check out jQuery's website at jquery.com.

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    5 Easy Steps to Establish Marketing Rhythm and Momentum

    Posted 12:43 PM by

    We see this often. A client purchases our design and development services, gets trained in our web content management system, and then flitters away to rarely use it again. Their website marketing efforts die right after launch.

    5 easy steps to establish marketing rhythm and momentum (Alfred Gockel art)Then at some point, a couple years or so down the road, they call and tell us that it's not working for them like they had hoped. Most fess up and recognize that they didn't dedicate time to add meaningful content and continuously improve the website over time. One former customer yelled and screamed that our business relationship was one-sided to the point it was insulting. Ouch. It's a good thing I take my jabs in stride (that customer never logged in once after launch).

    The problem is simple. It is seen in many industries throughout the small business world. A company provides a high qualilty product or service, a buyer never uses it as it was intended to be used, and the buyer gets upset with either themselves for wasting money or with the vendor for the product not providing the expected results.

    Web content management systems are no different. These are tools that provide users a mechanism for updating their website with content that, if meaningful and relevant to prospects and customers, will increase visitors, improve site engagement, and convert more visitors into paying customers or advocates. But this takes time and effort that most small business owners don't have.

    Here are easy 5 steps you can take to avoid the same trap and to establish a rhythm and momentum for producing great website content:

    1. Setup a Content Strategy

    Evaluate the type of customers you have and want, then brainstorm questions they might have and information they seek. The best source for this might be your existing customers. Ask them two simple questions: 1) What problems did our product or service solve for you? 2) What more could we do to improve that product or service?

    You'll get the information fairly easily from your customers. They know you and won't think you're trying to sell them on the product they already have. You might also gain some insight (likes & disklikes) that you wouldn't have gained otherwise.

    Once you  have these questions, brainstorm topics that your customers and prospects might find interesting. Use the notes feature of your PDA or send yourself a quick email whenever a new topic pops into your head.

    "Content Strategy" might seem a little overwhelming, so don't think of this as some exhaustive process. Keep it easy and keep the topics light. Otherwise you'll find yourself trying to write lengthy white papers you don't have enough time to finish.

    2. Involve Your Whole Company


    Whether you are a two man operation or have five hundred employees you have a wealth of knowledge within that can be tapped and leveraged. Use it. Ask your staff to contribute content. Let them come up with their own ideas and have fun with it. You're not writing novels, so as long as you proofread the posts before publishing you should be fine.

    Keep in mind that not everyone will be a great writer. They may be passionate about their job but not able to communicate it well. Work with them and encourage them to keep at it and that they are not getting graded.

    3. Set a Schedule

    Without a schedule, you have nothing to hold your people accountable. So, setup a schedule unique to each individual. Require one post per month, bi-weekly, or per week. Our developers are required to write one per month because we keep them very busy with projects. Our marketing and sales staff are required to write one per week.

    You should set incentives for employees. Instead of saying "if you don't write one per month...", try saying "if you DO write one per month, then I will....". For example, if an employee has contributed their quota consistently for 3 or 6 months, they get a $25 gift card. Or perhaps, the user with the highest trafficked post (most visitors) receives the prize. You could also provide incentives that aren't financial, such as, a prime parking space, or they get to wear jeans and a t-shirt for a week.

    4. Reuse Content for Other Marketing Channels

    If you have established rhythm and momentum writing new content then after a few months you should start accumulating a lot of great stuff. You can use all of this in your other marketing efforts. Send the best posts in your email marketing newsletters. Take one post and begin a larger, more in-depth effort to write a white paper. At the end of the year, you might even send a summary message or letter that has your best writing.

    New content will spawn all sorts of ideas and may even change your business. Act on those.Stick to your schedule.

    5. Promote Your Content

    Producing great content is nice but if nobody finds it what's the point? All of your content should be broadcast to Twitter, Facebook, your email subscribers, your direct mail subscribers, local Chambers and industry organizations. There are many great organizations that provide free posting of industry news topics (keeping in mind the content is not blatant self-promotion).

    Watch your website statistics to see what your top referrers are for these posts. This will help you know where to spend more time and effort in the future and what type of organizations to target with the posts. Of course, you need to watch for conversions too. More visitors does not mean more customers.

    Ask trade organizations if you can provide some content for one of their newsletters, magazines, etc. This is not only a great way to spread your message but an opportunity to establilsh expertise in your industry.

    However you approach writing content for your website, you won't get the job done without a plan. Spend an hour or two putting your plan together and then execute, execute, execute. After all, what good is a plan if there is no execution?

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    How Important is Support?

    Posted 7:31 PM by

    "Why should we pay a monthly/annual fee to subscribe to your CMS when there are systems out there that are free?" 

    Well, well well...if it isn't the question that we run up against in most of our prospective client meetings.  It is actually one of my favorite questions to answer, not only because it means the client is doing their research into the content management industry (or having another vendor present a different solution), but it is relatively easy to make a strong case for the Software-as-a-Service model. 

    "Free" Isn't FreeFirst, let me just say that the majority of the time that Open Source is brought up, the client is referring to one of four CMS's: Wordpress, Joomla, Drupal, or Plone.  Each one of these systems has its strengths and weaknesses (I promise they all have downsides, no matter what that programmer tells you).  These systems are incredibly flexible and can seem to have an endless amount of plug-ins that can be utilized for increased functionality.  They are typically free from any sort of subscription fee, which is also very enticing. 

    Software-as-a-Service Content Management Systems, on the other hand, are often times proprietary systems that rely on a single company's efforts to expand on the product functionality, which can be a bit limiting at times.  These systems, many of which have been in development for years, can also be incredibly powerful and flexible though.  The main difference, in the eyes of the customer, is that "pesky" subscription fee.

    If you're a small business owner, marketing director for a mid-size company, or the Chief Marketing Officer for a fortune 500 company, you just want your CMS to work when you need to update your website.  You probably don't care about the technical specs, or how many developers contribute to the vast database of plug-ins, you just require simplicity and reliability.  My question to you, then, is "How important is support?"

    Support is where Software-as-a-Service differentiates itself from Open Source Systems.  If your Open Source CMS system breaks, who can you call?  You can't call the developer of the plug-in that is broken.  You can't call Wordpress or Joomla.  You have to call whoever built your website in this system, and I'm willing to bet, the time required to fix your issue isn't free.

    Software-as-a-Service CMS's come with unlimited support for the system.  If you have a problem, you can call the programmers who built the system and get it figured out.  There is no searching the web for help, scouring documentation that, depending on your technical skills, might as well be in a foreign language, or digging into your bank account to pay unexpected support costs.  Think of SaaS as a true website partnership with a CMS company.

    With all of that being said, no CMS is the right CMS for every project. Since this post was primarily about supporting a CMS, I didn't get into detail about specific pros and cons of each type of system.  I plan on detailing this list over the coming weeks, so stay tuned.                      


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

    Posted by

    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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    Read the Instructions Below Before Completing this Form...

    Posted 1:40 PM by

    Website marketing - too many instructionsThis is the sign posted above each urinal in the men's restroom at Fry's. This might work in a men's restroom because you know men look straight ahead at the wall and spend about 30 seconds to a minute staring at it.

    This does not work, however, on your website. You don't have 30 seconds to instruct visitors unless you are giving something away of significant value for free. Even then, you have very little time. People are busy and don't want a long list of bullet points. If you can't figure out easier, shorter instructions, perhaps you should simplify the process.

    Have you ever been in a company break room where someone (or some committee) has posted instructions and warnings for everything in the room?

    • Coffee pot: "If you take the last cup of coffee, do not leave it on empty. Please make a new pot. Coffee should be 1 1/2 scoops of coffee for every cup. Do not overfill with coffee grounds."
    • Refrigerator: "Please remove your old food. Lunch meat older than three days will be discarded. Items without a date will be disccarded. Please clean up your messes. If you are storing cola, your name must be on it - if not, it's community property. Please do not take other peoples' food."

             Thank you, Management

    Most people are inherently lazy, not necessarily because they are truly lazy, but mostly because they are so busy they don't have time for all these little things.

    My old geometry teacher, Mr.s Garte, constantly wrote KISS on the chalkboard - "Keep It Simple Stupid".

    So, there you go:

        Keep it Simple Stupid

    Or perhaps my other variation:

        Keep it Short & Simple

     

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    A Little Knowledge Goes a Long Way

    Posted 3:02 PM by

    Almost everyone who knows me knows that me and my Dad (and Sister) are fixing up an old house.  We are knee deep into this project that has spanned 2 and a half years, as we really only get to work on it during the weekends.  Now, each weekend that I work there, I require music the whole day, or I get stir crazy.  For the past couple of years, I have relied on the Pandora radio app on my iPhone to keep me sane, and while I don't mind the advertisements that play every hour or so, one finally hit home with me last weekend.

    The ad was for a popular coupon site, one I'm sure we've all heard of because they spend, what I'm sure is, a small fortune advertising all over the internet.  The ad, which played about 9 times on Saturday and 4 times on Sunday said the exact same thing each hour.  "Hey Pandora Listener, sign up on our website to get the best deals in Indianapolis!  Now back to your music."  Simple enough, and non-intrusive, right? 

    Here is where the ad placement goes wrong though.  I am already a member of the coupon site's mailing list.  I use the same email address to receive their emails as I do for my Pandora account.  They have obviously used some sort of geo-targeting process to realize that I am located in Indianapolis, so why can't they cross reference their database of emails with the Pandora account emails and realize that I am already signed up with them?  Marketing to me to sign up for their daily coupons does nothing for me. 

    I began to think about this opportunity they have and how they are essentially wasting it.  I began to think about how almost every website is missing this same opportunity.  Sure, we all have analytics to see where people are coming from and how they are getting to our sites, but are we missing the opportunity to tailor content to their specific visit. 

    A couple things to think about...

    1. If the visitor is coming from a search engine, can we customize content based upon their keyword search?  (Marketpath has recently accomplished this for two clients)
    2. If the visitor is coming due to a link in a newsletter, or a tweet, or a Facebook post, can we change the content to be personalized to them?  (I'll give you a hint...yes.)
    I guess the major take away here is, a little knowledge of who your visitors (or customers) are can go a long way in improving the usability of your website (or product).
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    Children's TherAplay Launches New Website

    Posted by

    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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    The Winter Wasteland Opportunity

    Posted 2:53 PM by

    Winter Wasteland Opportunity to Improve SaasToday, I drove to my office, parked, took this picture, and then sat there for a few minutes to reflect. I couldn't help but think how great an opportunity this represents. It's not because I plan to buy a pickup truck with a plow and hit the roads. It's because when it is cold and snowy I always think of shutting myself up in a warm, comfortable room and knocking out some important tasks that don't always get noticed during the normal hustle and bustle.

    I don't spend a lot of time out by this lake in the first place - most of my time is inside. Yet, with the possibility of doing anything outdoors cut off, I am forced to stay inside. In my mind, this is an opportunity to ignore the distractions the outside world offers and hunker down inside with a hot cup of coffee, a computer, and a list of things I want to get accomplished.

    I realize this is mostly psychological. But what if I'm not alone. What if all our customers think the same way? What if the world slows down a bit for them too and gives them a clearer view of their goals - for example, working on new and enticing content for their website? So I did a test. I grouped the total number of users in the system each day (excluding weekends) and overlayed the amount of precipitation. I was curious to see if our users logged in more on rainy or snowy days than dry days. Here's the chart:

    Marketpath user sessions - precipitation overlay
    Total daily user sessions and precipitation (green is above normal, brown is below normal, blue line is total users).

    As you can see, nothing. There doesn't seem to be any correlation to users of our system and the amount of precipitation. Completely random. It was a fun little test, though.

    So perhaps others don't think quite like me. Or maybe they do but their first thought isn't to add new content to their website. I would be interested, however, to see if other systems do have a correlation - like Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, etc.

    Well, now it's 11 AM and I haven't done anything but write this post. I guess the thought of hunkering down and getting a bunch done is more theory than practice. Time to catch up.

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    A Tale of Three Hair Cuts - How Service Made the Difference

    Posted 2:16 PM by

    Customer service | Marketing | SalesCONFESSION #1: I have cut my own hair for the last ten years.
    CONFESSION #2: In 2000, I spent $15 on a hair trimmer kit at WalMart.
    CONFESSION #3: If fashion sense was worth a million bucks I would be in a great amount of debt.

    And so begins my tale. I travelled to three different hair joints. I call them joints because I don't like admitting that I visited a salon and none of the places I visited are traditional barbers. So here are three joints that vary widely in the quality and level of service offered and the lessons I learned as a result.

    Joint #1 - At Home


    In a tiny bathroom in a sleepy little village named Broad Ripple the first hairs were cut with a new hair trimming kit from WalMart. A decade of solace had begun.

    My hair was as easy as a hair cut could get, aside from just trimming it with a single cut length. I used a size 6 for the top and a size 3 for the sides. Then I trimmed the edges.

    Time: about 15-30 minutes
    Price: For all purposes - $0 per hair cut. I could factor in the $15 trimmers and divide by use but seriously? That' ridiculous.
    Quality: Just ok. The tops and sides were fine but I was never satisfied with the back.
    Service: Attention to detail was never an issue but the conversation was often very boring and trivial.

    OverallExperienceMeter: 6 out of 10. The cost was right but the outcome was never great.

    Joint #2 - Great Clips

    http://www.greatclips.com/
    This was my "dipping-the-toe"  into paid hair cuts. I set no expectations, other than a decent outcome. My stylist's name was Ebony, a very nice woman who made me feel welcome. We tried carrying conversation but I can only talk so much about the Kardashians and Jerseylicious (and that's very little). Not really my bag.

    Time: 10 minutes (including wait)
    Price: $18 = $13 cut + $5 tip
    Quality: Good. Ebony cut my hair just like I asked and fixed the problem area I always had trouble with.
    Service: Not bad. Just a normal hair cut. She threw on some talcum power without asking and then I smelled like that for the rest of the day. There was also very little cleanup so I had hair bits everywhere.

    OverallExperienceMeeter: 5 out of 10. I'm giving this a lower grade for several reasons. I basically paid $18 for someone to fix the one area I couldn't do well myself. Ebony did a great job within her boundaries so this is not a knock against her at all.

    Joint #3 - i.d.entity hair design

    http://idhairdesign.com/

    I was referred to i.d.entity by Adam Brand, our VP of Creative and Client Services. This is the place he goes. The only difference is that Adam has a lot of hair that you can do something with. I have pre-balding, "salvage what you can" hair. Nonetheless, I took him up on his referral and made an appointment with Laura.

    I'll admit, I was a little nervous because I knew Laura was going to ask what I wanted. It's probably the same feeling I had when my wife drug me to Joann Fabrics and asked me what I thought about different fabrics. If there is a word for me it is "nonfashionable" or the phrase "unable to consider, qualify, create, analyze, comment, or otherwise provide any valuable input on anything related to fashion."

    So, Laura asked, "What are you looking for?" Oh, boy. There it is. My response was simply, "This is what I've done for 10 years and I need you to tell me what to do to make it better." And then Laura took command. She explained a lot of different things to me that likely resulted in many blank stares. "Ok", I said.

    Time: 45 minutes (including my 3.5 minute drive)
    Price: $56 = $26 cut + $10 tip + $20 hair stuff (I guess she was a good salesperson)
    Quality: Very good. Better hair style that resulted in at least a few comments of "That is much better"
    Service: Excellent. It's hard to beat two shampoos, a scalp massage, and a straight razor shave. Plus she talked about baldness prevention (which in my family is a good thing). Great conversation and the fact she was able to quickly and easily take control and make recommendations was what I needed.

    OverallExperienceMeter: 9 out of 10. I would give it a 10 but I'm still in shock on the price tag. Average cost going forward, though, will be about $36 (which includes free maintenance trims).

    Insight Gained from Experiences

    So, here's the lesson learned that you might be able to project into your own customer adventures. In my case, I already did an ok job with the hair cut myself. Great Clips was never going to win because I couldn't justify spending $18 on fixing only one problem area with a mediocre level of service. I was ok dealing with it for free. If I was going to make a change my experience had better improve dramatically. That is exactly what i.d.entity provided. I will adjust to the new budget over time and will probably grow accustomed to the service and not want to return to the days of do-it-yourself.

    Solving big problems is easy but if you think about your own prospects and customers they might be in the same position as I was. They might have a few small problems and be doing something themselves that is good enough. Whatever service or product you are pitching to them must exceed their needs by not only solving the small problems but drastically improving their experience overall.

    Convincing do-it-yourselfers to use your service or product requires a leap of faith. If you make the promise of exceptional quality and results you had better deliver.

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    How Bootstrapping Teaches Lessons the Hard Way

    Posted 6:16 PM by
    If I were to go back nearly ten years and start this company all over I would take a much different path. But that's only if I had the knowledge and experience that I have now. Easy to say, obviously. It's scary, though, to think how much time I've wasted on different undertakings - everything from operational chores to sales to development to phone systems. If I could go back I would take the Chris Baggott approach. 

    Chris has always been a mentor to me. I met him back in 2001 when I started my company and he started his, now a $100 million a year company named ExactTarget. Chris had a sales and marketing background and I had a technical background. I could build a killer application and Chris could sell a killer application (and he could probably sell rotten meat to a butcher). I could tweak and improve an app and Chris could direct other programmers to build what he needed. Chris spent his time selling and marketing and I spent my time building and not selling so much. Besides trades, the biggest difference is that my company is 100% bootstrapped (self-funded) and Chris has relied on outside investments.

    So here are a few lessons that I've learned from Chris' success and from my own mistakes and missteps on a shoestring, bootstrapped budget:
    1. Once it is built, sell it. This is fairly obvious but there are some OCD aspects to me that lead me to improvement after improvement. The problem is, those minor improvements won't sell any better than the first revision. They may improve the user experience and keep them from calling all the time for support but there has to be a stopping point and that has to be early. Once you get a few new accounts then make your tweaks and sell some more. Once you get a few more accounts, make some more tweaks and then get back to selling. Wash, rinse, repeat.

      Don't make my mistakes of washing.... then washing again..... and, oh crap, there's a little dirt still there so wash again.... rinse a little... wash some more.... rinse a little bit more. You get the point. In late 2008, I presented to a group of investors and the number one comment was "I'm sure you can build great software but I just don't feel you have the sales and marketing leadership." Wash... then rinse.... rinse... rinse.... rinse....
       
    2. Don't reinvent the wheel. Several years back, rather than spending several hundred dollars per month on a CRM, we decided to build our own. Why not? We're fast, efficient developers and could build the core functionality within a week. The problem came once we started needing more. We got to a point where everyone hated the system and we were too busy to make necessary changes.We failed. I was told once by a man wiser than me that you shouldn't build an application or tool if one exists that is good enough. It doesn't have to be perfect. That advice made me ditch the tool and start using Salesforce.com.
    3. Hire a bookkeeper. I am guilty of this until today because until today I managed all receivables myself. I just couldn't separate with this because I didn't want to pay someone something that I feel needs intimate knowledge of our customers and processes. But then again, needing intimate knowledge of customers and processes isn't very scalable. We did use a firm for all of our accounts payable and balancing but that didn't happen until I was in business for 8 years. Think of all the time I could get back had I simply paid someone to do the bookkeeping. My sole number one job is to figure out how to feed the funnel - not so much how to sort it out once its in there. Feed that funnel!
    4. Always nurture your clients. This seems incredibly obvious - give your clients the love and attention they deserve. You'd be surprised, though, how quickly you can take this for granted. Clients can be demanding and you become less and less available (especially if you're doing your own books and building software that already exists). If you can't adequately give your clients the attention they need then you need to establish a system that helps accomplish that.

      As you grow your business, though, it will be impossible to be right there, a phone call away, for all their immediate needs. They will still expect that and will very likely complain a bit that you're not as available as you used to be. Don't fret, though. This is the time to have a quick conversation with them explaining how you desperately want to provide them the same level of personalized service - but because your business is growing and doing so well (much thanks to their early business) you have a slightly modified way of getting the immediate help they need. A simple phone call will help alleviate their frustration and establish a new acceptable path for them to get what they need.
    5. Bring on the right partners. This is interesting because tomorrow I'm attending an Executive Roundtable put on by Katz, Sappler & Miller titled "The Art of Convicing Brilliant People to Jump Off a Cliff." Building your company requires you to hire brilliant people - probably much smarter than yourself. In early 2006, I brought on two fantastic partners to help get Marketpath's CMS initiative off the ground. These two provided all the expertise and skill needed to build a killer application. The problems started happening later, though, when our own networks were exhausted of sales leads and business life became a bit stagnant.

      Our very first sale went something like this, "This is great! We'll take it for all of our websites and we'll need a 5 year contract term." We did the math and that would have been nearly $200,000 for our first sale ($40,000 per year)! We were on cloud nine. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite that simple. We did end up with about $20,000/yr for that first sale, though and they are still a great client.

      We kept it up after that for about 6 months. Then we began the downward trend. We still brought on new accounts but not a rate quick enough to cover all the time we spent developing the application. And we all spent way too much time developing and not enough time selling (notice the recurring theme?).

      The point is this. Partners come in all different flavors. I've had several and I'm still happy with my choices. You have to be prepared, though, for the time when those partners have exhausted their capabilities and you need new talent to bridge the gaps. When you bring on partners to help you build your company make sure they fit your needs now but can also grow into whatever future needs may arise. But they won't be a one size fits all and you shouldn't expect them to be.

    I come from a somewhat blue collar background, didn't have the best financial education, got a C in Accounting 101, and dropped any future business classes. I have a bachelors degree from Indiana University in Computer Science and probably never should have gone into business for myself. But I love the art of building and growing a business, I enjoy difficult challenges, and I am a stubborn SOB - so I haven't backed down yet. What I have learned with my other business partners has been completely bootstrapped and self-funded and most often learned the hard way. Whether that is a benefit or a disadvantage we shall see. But I will say this, any lesson learned while burning through my own time, money, and resources is about as ingrained as a lesson can be.


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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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      Visitors, Personalization and Engagement

      Posted 8:01 PM by
      Because we are not an SEO company, I have decided to expand my blog a bit and focus on the topics of getting visitors, personalizing their visits, and engaging them to the best way possible, instead of just focusing on SEO.  From now on, each post will be focused on one of these three areas:

      Attracting Visitors 
      Whether your visitors are coming from direct traffic, search engines, referral sites, or the ever popular social media atmosphere, the bottom line is everyone wants more, as long as they are the right visitors.

      Personalizing a users visit to your Website
      Personalization is the new holy grail of Internet marketing, in my opinion.  While we are truly at the base of the "Personalization Mountain" right now, you can rest assured that this is where websites are going.  Just think, customizing each users visit, to the best of your ability, to market THE product or service they are most interested in based upon their search query, entry point, or referral site.  Email marketers have been doing this for years with personalized email...why stop at email?

      Engaging each user with targeted content and specific conversion goals
      The mark of a truly effective website is not just based solely in the amount of traffic that it gets.  If my site gets 10,000 hits a day but I only convert .01% of those into a sale or a customer, it would be hard for me to consider my website effective (depending on the industry and goals, of course).  Every site owner these days will stop what they are doing and listen if you mention the words "Search Engine Optimization", but what good does that do?  SEO paired with engaging content and clear goals is where true value is derived.  
      So, stay tuned as we explore these different areas of website development and all things Internet marketing.  Also, feel free to join the conversation in the comments section below. 
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      Mystery Meat Navigation

      Posted 4:59 PM by

      Confusing road construction signs - poor usability

       

      Wait..... I don't get it.

      The sad thing is that this is more easily navigable than many websites I come across.

       - eloquently referred to as Mystery Meat Navigation.

       

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      Marketpath Honored to be Part of Techpoint's Measured Marketing Initiative

      Posted by

      The Measured Marketing initiative, a joint effort between Techpoint, Ball State University's Center for Media Design and the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, was launched today.  The initiative shines a spotlight on 70 Indiana based, return-on-investment focused companies, and Marketpath is honored to be part of this group.    

      Marketpath - Indiana Measure Marketing InitiativeWith support from the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, Techpoint will conduct a national public relations campaign to help draw attention to the great products and services offered by Indiana's thriving Measured Marketing businesses. 

      Download the full press release from Techpoint

      or

      Check out Techpoint's Website for more information on the initiative.

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      Google Instant and What it Means for Search&nbsp;

      Posted 5:51 AM by
      So, it has been about a week since Google Instant was debuted, which is about how long it took for me to write down my first impressions of it.  It has been an interesting week of reading blog articles and tweets, as there has been no shortage of content on both sides of the argument.  Here is a recap of the week and the things that I have learned.

      1. Snap judgements around the web community initially said that "SEO IS DEAD!!!", while Google quickly refuted that point, saying that their algorithm hadn't changed.

      Now I wouldn't say that SEO is dead, but it has definitely changed in my opinion.  While the most sought after keywords are still going to be the most sought after keywords, I think there will be an interesting shift away from long-tail searches that were easier rank on page one.  Since Google is constantly trying to interpret what you are searching for and suggesting your next word, unique searches will begin to taper off.  I'm not saying that Google Instant and the Google Suggest feature will turn us all into robots, there will still be unique searches, but I feel like in smaller numbers.  Only time will tell on this one.

      2.  I Use Google Chrome, so I don't really interact with Google Instant

      For many Google Chrome users like myself, Google Instant is only applicable if my first query doesn't return what I am looking for.  Since the URL Box doubles as a Google Search box in Google Chrome, I can type in my query and press enter without having to go to the Google Homepage.  Once I am on the results page, I can then refine my search using Google Instant, but not before.  I'm not sure if Google has plans to roll out the Google Instant feature to Google Chrome, we'll have to wait and see on that one.       

      3. We've noticed a definite shift in the Organic Rankings "Screen Real Estate", especially on local searches
      .

      This was an interesting realization.  Now that Google Instant has the Google Suggest box underneath the search box itself, it pushes the organic rankings down to almost below the fold.  As you can see below, there are three Pay-Per-Click listings for this search, displayed first, then the Google Local map, and then at the very bottom of the image you can see the 1st organic listing (that is actually being cut in half horizontally).  Google didn't change the way that these three sections are displayed, but adding more content underneath the search box like they have done, definitely reduces the strength of a page one organic ranking for these local terms.  It will be interesting to see how the data shift of people clicking on paid advertisements changes over the next couple of months since they aren't immediately served up organic results.  

      Google Instant Screen Capture


      4. The overall strategy for ranking well hasn't changed.

      Creating good, relevant content is still what makes a website an authority on any given topic.  Making sure that your site is searchable and incorporates search engine friendly title tags, URL's, and other on-page features is still at the foundation of Google, whether it is Instant or not.  Just because they have changed the way they are displaying information doesn't mean there is a drastic change in the information itself. 

      As always, creating good content attracts links back to your website.  Attracting these high-quality (not quantity) links should be the goal of any content publishing.  

      I'm sure that Google Instant will change some things in the search world, or even the world itself - as Google Instant would claim that at the time that I am writing this to have already saved about 1 million hours worldwide.  Ironically, only more time will tell us what the impact of Google Instant truly is.  


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      Checking Out "Checking In"

      Posted 8:01 AM by
      Facebook Places - social media - Marketpath CMSfoursquare - social media - Marketpath CMSI'll readily admit I'm just getting my feet wet with social media. I've had a twitter account for a year and a half but just started using it regularly a month ago. I definitely see some value but I also see a huge potential waste of time. Twitter has a lot of growing up to do. I'll post about that another time because this post is about foursquare and Facebook Places.

      I'm writing this at a Panera Bread. I checked in on both foursquare and Facebook Places. I'm not 100% sure why, though. I chose Panera because they have good coffee, free wifi, and no interruptions. So, why do I want people to know where I am right now? The fact is, I don't. I want to be left alone. Yet, I still told my 15 foursquare friends (I know - I'm famous) and a couple hundred Facebook fans that I'm here. Thankfully, they're not all rushing in to see me.

      Two weeks ago, I drove to Chicago with my family and I checked into the Fowler Ridge Wind Farm on the way there and the way back. I never stopped at the wind farm, I just though it would look cool on my check-in list. Before that I checked into someone's home titled "Our House" - I've never met them. I've also checked into a place called "The Dog House" and left the comment "I've been here a lot!" I have a friend who checks into multiple places daily just so he can be the Mayor of those places on foursquare. He'll also check into random places like Nancy's Bridal and now, with his jailbroken iPhone, can fake his GPS location and check into any place in the world, like the Pyramids of Giza.

      I do check into Scotty's Brewhouse so I can get 10% off my meal. I did the same for DMK Burger Bar while in Chicago because they offered a free side of fries (not just your regular old fries either). Because of this, I check most places for specials - but I only check after I arrive. The foursquare discounts don't drive me to go to these places, though, I just see how I can lower their profit margin after arrival.

      Here are my pros and cons of these social check-in services:

      Pros
      • Get discounts at participating locations (foursquare)
      • Get random visits (meetups) when your friends see where you are
      • Be a visitor when you see friends check into locations nearby
      • Great for businesses (foursquare only at this time)
        • See who's checking in
        • Offer in-store specials (upsells)
        • Friendly competitions for your patrons to work for mayorships
        • If users know you offer checkin specials, they will likely return
      Cons

      Again, I'll admit I'm just starting to figuring these tools out. And as I mentioned above for Twitter, they have a lot of growing up to do. My recommendation is to jump in and try them out. As our world becomes more and more connected we will certainly have some big social media failures. But we will learn from each of them and over time invent new and very ingenious ways to connect with one another - friends, family, friends of friends, colleagues, etc.

      Until then, be an early adopter and have some fun.

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      Marketpath CMS Adds Site Search and Sitemap Generator

      Posted by

      Marketpath's development team has just finished its latest addition to Marketpath CMS - Integrated Site Search and Automatically Generating XML Sitemaps. These features are now available and highly recommended for all of our customers, not only for general usability purposes, but for search engine optimization best practices, as well.

      Integrated Site Search 

      Site search gives your website visitors the ability to seach for specific topics, pages, or products within your site by simply typing a search query into the new site search box that will be incorporated into your site. Upon searching, your visitor will be directed to a results page that ranks each listing based upon relevance, dramatically helping your visitors find what they are looking for. This is a crucial feature for websites that are constantly growing and changing.

      Automatic Sitemap Generator 

      Google highly recommends incorporating XML sitemaps into any website so their robots and spiders can more easily determine the site structure, helping your website rank higher for your targeted terms. By utilizing the new site search feature explained above, Marketpath has built an XML sitemap generator that automatically populates based upon any page that is linked in your menu.

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      Sweet, Sweet Fortunate Revelation!

      Posted 8:50 PM by
      Today, I found out that Marketpath CMS works with Google Chrome. As a matter of fact, I'm writing this blog post using Chrome. This is important for three reasons I'm about to completely make up: 

      1. Google Chrome now commands 16.7% of all browser usage (see http://www.w3schools.com/browsers/browsers_stats.asp). That is approaching 1 of 5 people using Chrome. If you're not any good at math that's a lot of people. By comparison, only 1 of every 32 people follow Lady Gaga on Twitter and she is the most followed twitter user.

        This is important because we want to make sure we cover the major browsers. Sorry all you SeaMonkey people!  
      2. Google Chrome is making frequent version releases and holds up very well against the other browsers. It is fast, lean, standards compliant, and has simple usability. This means they are doing a lot to improve the quality of their browser and adding new features and improvements on a regular basis. Their old release schedule was quarterly and now they are trying to move it monthly or sooner - more of an Scrum development model. This is important because when it comes to new, highly interactive and robust websites speed is king. Whoever has the fastest browser and renders sites the most consistently will win the most users.  
      3. Marketpath CMS Treeview in Google ChromeThe best reason is that getting Chrome to work with Marketpath CMS didn't cost me a thing!

        Bravo to Google for fixing our issues with their browser! Our biggest issue was with our tree control (right). We discovered this as soon as Chrome was released. We slowly watched the usage numbers trickle up and were very close to adding the fix to our dev cycle. We planned to implement a new jQuery tree across the entire site but that would have been a huge undertaking and now we can delay it for a while to add more beneficial features.

        Thank you Google for picking up the tab!


      Now I can sleep like a baby because we work in Chrome. No more tossing and turning and no more late night munchies. Let's just hope this baby publishes.


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      Marketpath adds video management capabilities with VideoHere&trade;

      Posted by

      VideoHere video management software Marketpath is proud to announce our new video management solution, which makes adding a video to your website just as easy as it has always been to add landing pages, images and image galleries using Marketpath CMS.

      Our new partnership, with Cantaloupe.tv, integrates their VideoHereTM video management software into Marketpath's Content Management System to provide users a more engaging experience.  The integration offers Marketpath customers the ability to seamlessly utilize video in their web pages, providing highly relevant and engaging content.  And studies show that 65% of viewers watch online video to completion, a number significantly higher than for text.  This demonstrates how video is a great way to reach online audiences and to keep visitors glued your website and message longer. 

      Marketpath's video management enables you to grow your site's video presence, while also enhancing your SEO efforts and social media footprint.  VideoHereTM includes a feature that tags videos for search engines, and the video player includes features which allow the viewer to easily share videos with their network and post to social media outlets. 

      Using VideoHereTM is also extremely easy, allowing you to point-and-click to upload, customize, embed, and track videos in your web pages.  Directly from your Marketpath account, you can easily manage a video library, add video to web pages, and track video metrics, including impressions, clicks, views, drop-offs, view times, and viral sharing.

      For more information on this new Marketpath offering, visit http://www.marketpath.com.

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      Google Announces New Search Engine Index

      Posted 2:32 PM by
      Yesterday, June 8th, Google announced on their blog that they have completed "Caffeine", their newest search engine index.  This is a major step forward in providing searchers with the most timely and relevant results possible. 

      To really understand the difference between the Google search we are all used to, and Caffeine, you have to understand how search originally worked.  Every time that you (or anyone) would search on Google, they would be provided back a list of websites that Google thought were most relevant.  Google would index these pages every few weeks to ensure that they are still relevant, but that isn't good enough in the Twittering, Facebooking, constantly updating world we live in today - and Google knew it.   

      Google Caffeine - A CMS User's Best Friend

      Enter Caffeine, the world's first continuously updating search index.  No longer do site administrators and authors have to wait days or weeks to get their content to update in Google's index.  This is great news for web authors that are using a content management system.  Simply adding keyword rich and relevant content to your site could possibly have a dramatic effect on your overall search engine ranking, giving you the power to market your site the way you know how.  Blogs will become an even more effective way to increase traffic organically.

      It is difficult to say if anyone will notice a true difference in their search engine rankings - only time will tell.  While we are waiting though, you might as well get out there and keep creating that relevant content that matters so much.   

      (If you haven't done it already, read their blog post as there are some seriously amazing statistics that put this new Google endeavor into perspective)

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      Indiana Becoming U.S. Technology Leader

      Posted 8:00 AM by
      Silicon Prairie Indiana?For a number of years now, Indianapolis and Indiana as a whole have been working to grow the state's technology focus and to position Indiana as one of the United States' high tech business hubs.   Progress has been positive in the past few years, as the state has put various business and tax incentives in place to encourage investment in technology businesses and to put an environment in place that helps technology start-ups to succeed.

      Well, based on what I saw at this year's TechPoint MIRA Awards, given to the state's top technology firms, Indiana is succeeding.  The number of successful and innovative technology firms seems to be growing at an unprecedented rate.  Below are just a few of Indiana's growing technology sectors and companies worth looking into.

      Health Care Information Technology
      • My Health Care Manager- Leverages technology to help seniors navigate the difficult journey of aging with an innovative decision support system.
      • LocalHealthNow.com- Offers innovative tool's that provide health professionals geographic, situational insight into currently occurring illnesses and outbreaks.
      Technology Integration and Infrastructure
      • BlueLock- Cloud computing solutions
      • Prevel Technology- New database technology that dramatically improves performance and reduces cost
      Marketing Technology
      • Exact Target- SaaS email marketing
      • Cantaloupe- Online video management tools to integrate with email, websites, blogs and social media.
      • Delivra- Affordable Email marketing.
      • Marketpath- SaaS tools for web content management, ecommerce, blogging, and search engine optimization.  Marketpath helps small and medium sized organizations more effectively and efficiently run their online marketing. 
      As a member of the Marketpath team, it was an honor to be included as a MIRA Award finalist with so many impressive individuals and innovative companies that are leading Indiana's technology expansion.   

      One of the speakers at this weekend's MIRA Awards stated that Indiana was fast becoming the new "Silicon Prairie" and that Silicon Valley better watch out.  I'd have to agree.  And Marketpath is happy to be part of Indiana's growing technology sector.

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      Marketpath is a 2010 MIRA Awards Finalist!

      Posted by
      Last week Marketpath was announced as a Finalist for the 2010 Techpoint MIRA Awards.  For those of you who are not familiar, the MIRA Awards celebrate Indiana's technology leaders.  Marketpath has been nominated as a finalist in the Technology Gazelle category.


      We are honored to be considered as a finalist for such a prestigious award.  The MIRA Awards Ceremony will be held Saturday, May 15th, 2010 at the Westin Hotel in beautiful downtown Indianapolis.  Check out the website for the MIRA Awards Ceremony and we'll see you there!

      Click here to view the MIRA Awards Press Release

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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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      a Pooper Scooper

      Posted 1:15 AM by
      Our SEO guy is going to have a fit when he reads this title because it has the potential of tying the word "poop" to our website. Nonetheless, I have a good reason for sharing my thoughts.

      Your website is like a pooper scooperFor those of you who have dogs and clean up after them regularly you have the unfortunate experience of using some sort of pooper scooper. This means you probably use some cheaply made product with a short life span to do the work and that it breaks almost every year. If you are a mechanical genius like me then you may be able to repair it when it breaks - yes, I'm that cheap.

      My biggest problem with pooper scoopers is that they don't last. I attribute this to two things: 1) They get pretty nasty so who really wants a really old, heavily used pooper scooper (I have two big labs so mine gets used a lot); or 2) they get left outside where they weather and break down (if you store yours inside you ought to be banned from civilized life).

      My dogs are getting old (over 10 years) and in those 10 plus years I have seen no major improvements to the way people pick up their dogs' little gifts. My theory is this: since the actual gift giving process by the dogs hasn't changed much in the last several millennia then the tools used to clean up those gifts haven't adopted a fast-paced cycle of innovation. This is why we still have crummy products.

      Your website is like a pooper scooperYour website is like a pooper scooper. If you use it regularly without cleaning it every now and then you will end up with a lot of gunk that just doesn't fit. Or if you let it sit around with no changes or updates it won't change with your organization and becomes stale and worthless. So, what do most people do? After two or three years, they throw it out and spend tens of thousands of dollars to start from scratch. That probably wasn't in their original plan.

      Instead, what they should have done in the first place was to put in a proven web content management system and develop a publishing policy as well as a regular website maintenance review and cleanup plan. People are human (this has to be the most profound and deeply philisophical phrase I've ever written) and people like to chat it up (proof right here in this blog post). So, with lots of chatty humans you get lots of gobbledygook. Utilizing a web content management system can help you tremendously as you tackle the challenge of regular updates and keeping your message consistent.

      Post pet hospital in Indianapolis, INWhether you feel like you need a website overhaul or simply want to keep yours updated, it's best that you consider putting in a web content management system and develop a regular website maintenance review and cleanup plan. Any good web content management system will allow you to refresh the look of the site (if that's what you're after) and still retain the content that you've worked so hard on over the last couple of years.

      The next time someone asks you about your website tell them it's like a pooper scooper and see where that leads the conversation. If they are intrigued you may have a new friend for life. If they bolt then move on to the next victim.


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      Keeping up with the Joneses

      Posted 2:56 AM by

      My last blog entry was June 12, 2009 - over nine months ago. Wow! Shame on me because I have a lot to write about and a lot to share.

      One of the reasons I haven't written much is because I've planned to change the topic of my blog. I want to move from "Practical Internet Marketing Strategies" to something more general about technology leadership. I want to move towards a blog topic that covers the ups and downs of leading a technology company. Not because I am a phenomenal leader (I have a lot of evidence to the contrary) but because I learn a lot and would love it if others could learn from my mistakes. More about that later....

      So, here's my new post about Keeping up with the Joneses. A fantastic spectacle to me is the enormous number of  people staying completely in tune with our new Internet-based social infrastructure. Writing blog entries, tweeting, and posting status updates on Facebook and LinkedIn. They are online nearly 24/7 and always have something to say (some of it is even informative!). These people make me feel tired and weary because by day I manage a software company and by night I have an incredible family with whom I love spending as much time as possible. There's just not enough time in the day, right?

      Cheers to those who can do it!  Groundswell - web content management dataAnd then there are the rest of us....

      Recently, Josh Bernoff (co-author of Groundswell) posted that only 24% of online users actually create content. I believe this is up from a couple years ago when I read his book (unfortunately, I can't look that up right now because one of my former colleagues, Colin Clark of tribeswell, still has my book). So 1 of every 4 people create content. That means about 75% of us are simply consumers or readers. That makes me feel a little better, I guess. Yet, I still can't get away from the fact that it's been over nine months since my last post.

      A lot has happened in those nine months, though. We went from a company who's outlook was somehwat bland to one who has enormous potential and a very solid, admirable customer base. Since then, we've nearly doubled the number of websites using our web content management system, added new product lines and features, and we've drastically improved the way we serve and support all of our customers - all while retaining over 95% customer retention in a crappy economy! Yet, even with all of that I'm sure I could have written more blog posts. I guess sometimes we want to keep up with the Joneses and sometimes we just need to step back and do a little reading and planning. Consider that my last nine months.

      Farenheit 451 - technology leadership learningOK, back to the fact that I want to create a new blog about technology leadership and just discuss learning from my mistakes. One of my favorite books, still in my posession and dogeared in just the right places, is Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. There is a scene where the fireman, who no longer puts out fires but burns books instead because they are banned, meets a former librarian. The librarian utters one of my favorite quotes and one by which I live my life every single day:

      "Listen. Easy now," said the old man gently. "I know, I know. You're afraid of making mistakes. Don't be. Mistakes can be profited by. Man, when I was younger I shoved my ignorance in people's faces. They beat me with sticks. By the time I was forty my blunt instrument had been honed to a fine cutting point for me. If you hide your ignorance, no one will hit you and you'll never learn. ...."

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      Social Marketing Kills Social Networking

      Posted 8:55 PM by

      Remember how excited you were back in the early 90s when you sent your first email?  And then how sophisticated you felt when it was a daily thing with friends and family?  Fast forward to today.  Your inbox is so full of junk that you actually catalog it.  You have special folders for all the junk to be filtered to, and you still see it constantly.  There is no avoiding it.  Email is no longer fun.  Email annoys you.  You've even gone so far to completely avoid email until someone actually tells you face to face that they emailed you.

      Now think about social networking and how you got that same buzz when you first created your Facebook account a few years ago.  It was fun at first to see how much weight people from high school had gained and how bald they are now.  You were able to reconnect with some lost friends while still ignoring the ones you always did before.  Your news feed was filled with relevant news about cats and breakfasts.  Ah...Facebook was just right... but that all has changed.

      You probably have already realized that all hope for Twitter has been lost to the demons of social marketing.  Every formerly relevant hashtag promotes some product you're not interested in, so you (and I) have stopped using it.  Facebook is now flooded with spammers also, but something can be done.  More on that later.  For example, I get a lot of fake friend requests.  Usually it's from a young "girl" with no info, nothing on "her" wall, and only 1 photo.  After you become friends with them, the social virus takes hold.  You will get viagra offers.  Often.  These kinds of spammers are easy enough to spot and avoid, though.  I received this one today from Helene Heber.  "She" went from 6 friends to 107 friends over the course of a few hours.  Suckers.

      The other spammer is a legitimate person who friend-pads and preaches about social marketing.  His/her days are spent social networking ABOUT social marketing.  You know who I'm talking about.  People who have nearly 4000 Facebook friends, 5 real-life friends, and want you to become a fan of EVERYTHING.  The most disturbing trend is that companies are PAYING these people to become a fan of their product and then push it on their so-called "friends".  Advertising is fine.  Pay Facebook for it and let them run it on the right-side column where advertising should go.  Don't let spammers put it in my f'n news feed.  When I see companies there, I can no longer in good conscious buy from them... just like I don't buy my pharmaceuticals from a junk email.

      We can't do anything about it though, right?  Wrong.  We can.  At least on Facebook... (again, Twitter died a horrible death).  You could always unfriend any of these spammers immediately and return your news feed to sanity.  But Facebook itself could do something about the problem, because unlike email spam, Facebook spam can be fixed if they are so willing.  Here's how.  If someone suggests I become a fan of something too often, I should be able to report them as a spammer... Or, if they suggest I become a fan of some dog grooming service in New York City, and I live in Indianapolis, I should be able to report them as a spammer.  As more people report, their "spammer score" will increase, and they will slowly disappear from otherwise relevant news feeds around the world.  Maybe there could be a slider bar in my Facebook settings to adjust how much spam I want to see (none, please).  The nice thing about the "social" aspect of social networking is that the group can weigh in and figure things out on their own. 

      The whole concept of social marketing is bogus.  If you're going to pay to advertise, please do it responsibly and without tricks.  Don't pay someone to spam for you.  You're only hurting your brand.

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      Using Google Analytics to Your Advantage

      Posted 9:41 PM by
      As I was having coffee this morning with a friend and client of Marketpath's, it became apparent that using Google Analytics effectively might be more difficult than I thought.  This particular client owns a website that sells both indoor and outdoor water features.  While we were discussing his website traffic, I asked him if he knew the search terms that were driving the most traffic to his site.  He was unaware that the Google Analytics account that he used would tell him that information, so I explained to him where to find it and why.

      You can find that info within the lower lefthand box on the front page of your Google Analytics account.  Simply click on the title and open up a more in depth look at your traffic sources.

      Here are the reasons why it is important to know:

      1.  If the top keyword that people are typing in to get to your site is a specific product or service that you offer, you need to make sure that that specifc page relating to that keyword (or product page) is as appealing as possible (especially if you have a high bounce rate).  
      2.  Knowing your top keywords gives you an accurate view of what your customers are specifically looking for.  You can then tailor fit your website's message to that search term. 
      3.  Finally, this gives you the ability to add more content based on your high traffic search terms.  You can easily craft blog posts about these topics and raise your visibility.

      Google Analytics gives the majority of site owners more information than they can handle.  I urge you to explore the data and become familiar with the tool.  It can be an extremely beneficial, as long as you give it a shot.
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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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      Improving Your Google Local Search Ranking

      Posted 3:59 PM by

      Recently, in an effort to combat spam and false listings, Google modified the way they are ranking sites within the Google Local results pages.  Many of our local customers ask us "How do I get my website to show up on the map?  Well, here are a few easy tips that will help increase the chances of being indexed.

      1.  Submit your site to the Google Local Business Center.  This is a profile that allows you to fill out, among other things, the name, address, hours of operation, billing options, and categories (catering, doctor, dentist, etc) of your company.  Google will verify the information you provide, so be thorough, yet truthful.  Also, don't create your own categories for your company.  Custom categories can be viewed in a negative light by Google, so stick to their suggestions.  

      2.  Submit your site to FREE local directories:
                     - InfoUSA - submit site here
                     - Insiderpages - submit site here
                     - SuperMedia - submit site here

      Each of these directories help Google index their local listings, each one is free, so there is no reason to skip out on any one of the services.

      There is one important note to keep in mind, do NOT add keywords to your business name in any of these sites.  What I mean by this is if your official company name is ACME, Inc., then use that as your name.  Do not add keywords to the end of this.  For instance, if you sold pet rocks, do not make the business name ACME Pet Rocks, Inc.

      All of these steps take only a few minutes and can be very important in the overall visibility of your site.  Take advantage today!   

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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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      Marketpath Adds New Calendar Feature

      Posted by
      Just in time for the new year, Marketpath has rolled out an easy-to-use calendar feature that integrates directly into Marketpath CMS. Marketpath CMS Calendars give you the ability to manage one or more calendars from within the already familiar Marketpath CMS environment. Marketpath CMS Calendars also provide RSS feeds which allow syndication of your calendars to external websites and applications.

      If you would like to take advantage of the newly added calendar function, Contact the Marketpath sales department today!

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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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      Which folder is the right folder?

      Posted by

      When uploading files into the Media Library within Marketpath CMS, you want to ensure that you are uploading to the correct folder - either images or documents.  If you add these files to the incorrect file folders during upload, you will be unable to utilize them on your website.  For instance, if I upload an image into my documents folder, I will not be able to see this image when I click the 'Add Image' button on the Marketpath CMS toolbar because this button pulls up the image manager, not the document manager.

      Marketpath recommends that images are in either the .JPG or .GIF file formats.  We also recommend that any documents be converted to .PDF file format before uploading into the system to ensure for smooth downloading by website visitors.



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      Basic Search Engine Optimization Terminology

      Posted 9:08 PM by

      Lately, everyone that Marketpath has developed a website for has requested some sort of search engine optimization.  Some of these cutsomers know quite a bit about SEO, while others are simply requesting the service because someone told them they needed it.  Since there is such a discrepancy in SEO knowledge for our end users, I decided I would list out some of the terminology that is used and describe each part in simple terms.

      Title Tag - The most important area on a page that keywords can be placed.  Each page has its own title and it should be unique to each page.  The title tag can be seen at the top of the browser window and is also the physical link that is displayed by search engines.

      Meta Description Tag - This is a great place to describe (with keywords, of course) exactly what each page is about in more of a conversational manner (what services do you provide? What makes you unique?, etc).  This text is displayed by search engines underneath the blue link.  That is the only time this text can be seen by your website visitors. 

      Meta Keyword Tag -  The importance of this tag has diminished drastically over the past few years.  It is a common agreement within the industry that the Meta Keyword Tag is completley ignorned by search engines and therefore a waste of time to create. 

      Alt Image Tag - These tags can be used to describe what a picture is about, since search engines can't gather information visually.  A simple 2 to 3 word phrase that describes the image can go a long way.

      H1 Tag - The H1 tag stands for "Heading 1".  Each page should have an H1 tag that best describes the overall topic of that page.  Each page should only have one H1 tag. 

      There are other factors that go into ranking highly on search engines of course, but the foundational elements listed above can go a long way.

      For more information about keyword placement and to see a great example of an optimized page, check out this article

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      A Developer-Friendly Web Content Management System

      Posted by
      One of the challenges with any web content management system (or WCM) is that it is too developer-friendly and lacks simplicity and intuitive usability. On the flip side, many WCM's may be very easy to use but don't provide tools for web developers who want to get in and do some tweaking or customization. Striking the balance between developers and users isn't easy but it also isn't impossible. 

      Marketpath CMS now has a new feature for web developers that simplifies the setup and implementation of websites called syntax highlighting. Syntax highlighting changes the color of the  HTML coding so tags, attributes, and comments are more easily identifiable. This helps improve the speed of site implementation and makes for a more enjoyable experience overall for developers.

      Syntax highlighting in web content management



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      Web Content Management&nbsp;for Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer!

      Posted by
      It has been a long time in the making but Marketpath CMS is now fully cross-browser with all the major web browsers. Building a standalone website that is cross-browser is very easy. But building a tool with as rich a user interface as Marketpath CMS is quite an undertaking!

      When we began development on Marketpath CMS in early 2006 Internet Explorer had a 57% market share (even higher if you count only corporate users) so we built our tool with that in mind. We recognized, though, that we would eventually need to mold Marketpath CMS into a fully cross-browser compatible tool and that's just what we did.

      Supporting alll the major browsers provides even more convenience and simplicity for our customers. Managing website content should be easy and Marketpath CMS makes it so!

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      Website Marketing (part&nbsp;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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      Software as a Service - The perfect&nbsp;ally&nbsp;in&nbsp;a tough economy?

      Posted 9:01 PM by
      Although companies continue to cut expenses and scale back during this tough economy, they all know very well that some sort of business must go on.  All marketing professionals know (hopefully) that abandoning a marketing campaign completely, due to lack of funds, will spell certain death for a company.  However, they must be creative in how they are spending their budgets.  Gone are the days of huge upfront fees for websites.  Spending tens of thousands of dollars for a site during this economic climate is usually not possible.  That's where Software-as-a-Service or (SaaS) comes in...

      For those of you who are not familiar, SaaS allows companies to subscribe, whether annually or monthly, to a software service that allows them to streamline some process.  In Marketpath's case, our software (as a service) makes it easier for marketing professionals to utilize their website in a more cost effective manner.  The best part is, the starting cost's for SaaS models is usually much more manageable for a company.  By spreading out the payments into a monthly or annual contract, costs are known and upfront and can be accounted for in advance.  This is why the SaaS model works very well for Content Management Systems, with a relatively small amount to start and a small monthly or annual fee; your website can become a true marketing tool in a down economy - something we all need. 
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      WSJ Article - "Gmail Glitch Shows Pitfalls" - Seriously?

      Posted 1:04 AM by

      The article "Gmail Glitch Shows Pitfalls" was on the Wall Street Journal's Evening Wrap email. Under the headline, it had "Failure Spurs Concern Over Reliability of Online Software." To sum it up, it tries to pitch online software (or Saas - software-as-a-service) as unreliable because of occasional temporary outages. In my mind, I can hear all the traditional IT folks saying "See? I told you so!"

      I used to be a traditional IT guy at a University (a very cutting edge University at that). At one time I was responsible for a handful of enterprise applications, the client applications on individual user desktops, the hardware running both enterprise and client software, and the network that let them all talk. That's a big responsibility and one I didn't take lightly. I'll admit, though, I had the "I need to touch it and feel it" mentality - which basically means I wanted the software to be installed on my network and on my servers and desktops.

      Software-as-a-service was just starting to come into use at the enterprise level but not for the apps I supported, so I didn't have a choice. But now, many vendors are offering their software over the web, such as, customer relationship management, web content management, accounting, and many more. The benefits are huge:

      • No software to install, update, or troubleshoot
      • No hardware to install, update, or troubleshoot
      • Available from any computer with a functional web browser (not isolated to one client installation)

      Let me translate this into financial terms:

      • No capital costs to purchase software licenses that you may have to depreciate and will have no real value at the end of their useful life. Nobody is going to buy your 5 year old copy of MAS 90 or Microsoft Exchange.
      • No contractors to pay to install and configure the software
      • No ongoing support fees (depending on the vendor)
      • No capital costs to purchase hardware that will lose tremendous value and be worth very little, if anything, at the end of its useful life
      • All in all, much lower up front costs and subscription fees equivalent to many software maintenance agreements

       

      Now, software-as-a-service does not fit every business. I know that. But before you drop $100,000, or $10,000 for that matter, you should put some research into a SaaS alernative. Your up-front and long term cost savings might be huge compared to all the costs of installed software.

      As for the Wall Street Journal article that started me on this little rant - every software has its down day. It's unfortunate, yet it happens. But when your application becomes unavailable, would you rather have Google working non-stop to get it back up or your already overworked IT guy who has a chip on his shoulder and has one foot out the door?

      To the Wall Street Journal - inferring software-as-a-service is less reliable than its installed software counterpart is like saying Michael Phelps is more likely to smoke weed than Cheech and Chong. Everybody has their down-and-out moments but come on! Seriously?

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      I love you... sort of

      Posted 3:35 PM by

      I love you when you visit my websiteHappy Valentines Day! I really do love you... sort of. It depends on whether I know you or not. It depends on whether or not you are ready to buy from me or ready to give something that benefits me. It depends on how you are connected to me. It depends on what you look like, sound like, your socioeconomic status, and what you eat for breakfast. Until you give to me or have something to offer, I have nothing for you.

      But the Web is the great equalizer. I don't have to know you. I don't have to know who your friends are or what you have to offer me. I can give freely and give often through my website. I can provide value without passing judgement. Of course, I have to put food on the table for my family so I truly do want you to buy from me but that doesn't mean we can't have a conversation or that I can't talk with you until you are ready to give yourself.

      The challenge is to carry on a conversation and offer you valuable information and ideas without giving up all of my time. I can do that through my website. Of coure, I'll need a tool that allows me to carry on that conversation and I will have to dedicate some time to it. But with the right tool and the right strategy I can easily accomplish it. And I want to.

      So then the phrase "I love you... sort of" turns into "I love you - whoever you may be."

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      Reduce marketing&nbsp;expenses with a web content management system

      Posted 12:49 PM by
      I was talking with the owner of a small retail boutique about the poor economy and how she had to cut costs. But she knew that she couldn't scale back her online marketing because that would cause her revenue to drop. My answer, of course, was to implement a web content management system. This would give her the capability to continue marketing through her website without being billed for every change.

      Hosted solutions for web content management let organizations make unlimited changes to their website without incurring a charge for each change. Most hosted solutions allow multiple users to access and own content which helps remove bottlenecks and disperses accountability.

      Hosted, or SaaS (software-as-a-service) solutions, represent a fundamental shift in your annual marketing spend. Since these solutions are based on a subscription, you don't incur the initial capital costs for hardware or software, or the ongoing costs for maintenance, upgrades, and troubleshooting. These are all included in your subscription fee. If you are a larger organization, this could mean the difference of tens of thousands of dollars or more - fewer staff, no equipment, and no software that will be worth little to nothing in just a few years.

      Hosted web content management solutions can potentially save a great deal of money but can still give you the full power of website marketing.
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      Everything in one place

      Posted 6:57 PM by

      I just read a blog post on CMSwire that outlined a few of the trends that are going to really drive content management in 2009.  Two of these three trends were about Web 2.0 integration and e-commerce integration and how each piece will become an extremely important part of each and every website over the next year.  Almost every content management system out there today can help someone effectively manage landing pages, text, pictures, and menu structure (to name a few things), but not every one can help with the two things mentioned above. 

      Having your website, blog, and shopping cart all managed by the same system helps keep things organized and streamlined.  Managing products, content, blog posts and comments all from the same interface can help you and your staff save time and money.  It is all possible with the right, easy CMS.  Be ahead of the curve in 2009, be a trend setter.  Make your website work for you.    

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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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      Blogging for Comments

      Posted 4:41 PM by

      Today I came across a blog and wanted to leave a comment for the author. I scrolled to the bottom and it contained a link that said "You must be a registered user to leave comments." So, naturally, I abandoned the site. Too much work.

      If you want to allow comments on your blog make it very easy to do so. Don't require visitors to become a registered user or you will have many people like me quickly leave.

      Blogs are casual devices for communication. Requiring users to register in order to leave feedback is like saying, "Yeah, I'd love to have a conversation with you but first fill out this paperwork, submit it to my secretary and they will get back to you with further instructions on how we can converse."

      Yeah, right. Adios.

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      Cloud Marketing

      Posted 2:50 PM by

      What tools do you use to improve website visibility, engage visitors, and increase conversions? I break successful websites into those three areas of importance: visibility, engagement, and conversion.

      Let's say you do some email marketing, have a corporate blog, use search ads, and build up your backlinks in order to increase visibility (see my post about website chauffeurs).

      Once visitors arrive, you use a web content management system to keep your site updated with engaging and relevant content.

      Then, when converting visitors into leads (or paying customers) you might post a form that gets stored in your CRM database, added to your email marketing database, and then you might send both yourself and the lead an email response.

      I calll this cloud marketing. Just like cloud computing, cloud marketing utilizes the power of disparate applications and tools connected on the Internet. This is the "all of us is more powerful than just one of us" mentality.

      Cloud marketing is expensive because it still requires developers to programmatically connect all the tools so they talk nicely to each other. Over time, though, more and more tools will be connected easily because of standards. Just like RSS, I envision a day when we can point one application to another and they will auto-discover eachother's features and be able to talk without the need of a contracted programmer. This will not only lower the cost, but also give smaller businesses a better ability to compete with the big guys. Here's one Indianapolis firm that's already doing it - 5Buckets.

      NOTE: Here's proof of how fast the Internet moves. I started this article in November and didn't finish it for a variety of reasons. At that time, there wasn't much on cloud marketing and there definitely wasn't a Wikipedia entry. Now, however, there is. Started on December 1st - here it is: cloud marketing.

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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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      Churches Benefit with a Web Content Management System

      Posted 7:16 PM by

      We have several churches as customers. They all have one thing in common: tons of information to communicate to their congregations. Relying on a member of the church to make these changes leads to bottlenecks, delays, and headaches. Relying on a paid website developer leads to wasted cash and creates a disincentive for making much needed updates.

      This is where a web content management system for churches can make a big difference. First of all, you don't have to be a website developer to use the system. Many of our church users are non-technical and not terribly computer saavy. This is not a knock against them, they just aren't as comfortable with computers as some of our other users. With Marketpath CMS they don't have to be. The beautiful thing about our web content management system is that it is extremely easy to use.

      Don't let that fool you into thinking that it is basic, though. Marketpath CMS is far from basic. It is a very powerful on-demand platform that allows an incredible level of interaction, not just for church users but also for other website developers who want to make it do more.

      Dont' let your church fall into the bottleneck trap of using outside developers who charge an hour for every change regardless of size. And if one of your members currently makes changes for you, put in a web content management system and let them save a great deal of time as well as enabling other members of your staff to make changes too!

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      Track&nbsp;your website's&nbsp;performance with&nbsp;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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      Where Am I?

      Posted 3:20 PM by

      How important are good directions? Have you ever received directions so bad that they got no where but all the wrong places? From a usability standpoint, a good website will always answer three basic questions:

      1. Where am I?
      2. Where have I been?
      3. Where can I go?

      Studies have proven that the navigational structure of a website is one of the most critical elements for establishing credibility with visitors. Credibility is what stands between your site and a new customer. If you succeed at delivering a visitor directly to the information he or she is looking for in the shortest amount of steps, your credibility goes up. Conversly, if your site requires a lot of guess work and back button usage, your credibilty will suffer. 

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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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      How Recent and How Often Does Matter&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;

      Posted 3:18 PM by

      One of the things that can help distinguish your website from your competitors is how often you update your content. We all know this, but yet some of us still find it difficult to make changes.  This might be the rationale behind Google putting stock into how recently and how frequently a site is updated.  Google prides itself on giving searchers the most relevant information available, which a lot of times will translate into the freshest information available.  Google will rank sites that administrators care enough to make changes to higher than their stale counterparts. 

      Now obviously, Google isn't ranking sites soley based on frequency of updates, however it is one piece of the overall equation.  In my opinion, it is the easiest piece of the overall SEO equation to put into action.  Invest in a good content management system and swap out a picture or two every once in a while, blog about news worthy events, add a landing page that correlates to a new ad campaign.  Make your website work for you.  It's easy with the right tool.

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      Find Anything You Want

      Posted 1:02 PM by

      Often times I sit with my son and daughter and find educational websites, including videos on YouTube (usually of giraffes, zebras, elephants, etc). Today, my son asked to see talking couches.  He's four.  So, I looked for videos of talking couches and I was not surprised to find the first result below.  My son, on the other hand, was extremely excited to see a real live talking couch!

      This goes to show one thing. If you are looking for something specific you can probably find it on the web. And if you sell talking couches I hope that you are shown on the first page of search results. How do you do that? By following search engine optimization techniques and updating your content frequently.  Using a web content management system that lets you do both is a great start.

       

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      Content Management - It's not as easy as it looks

      Posted 4:22 PM by

      I am notoriously guilty of losing focus in my blog.  I often get so wrapped up in all the wonderful tools available (like blogging, email marketing, and social media), that I forget to cover content management.  Although Marketpath in many ways is a full-service internet marketing shop, our focus is (and should remain) product and service-driven

      joe-six-pack's CMSContent management is arguably the most important part of an organization's online presence.  The reason I believe this is that so many of your potential customers are not bloggers and don't participate in social media (though I do believe it is important to use your site to help expose visitors to social media).  When Joe-six-pack is Google-searching to find parts for his '86 Camaro, there is a good chance that he won't find a blog or twitter feed relevant.  The problem that's arising is that there is so much content in the Google index that comes from social media that it can be hard for a traditional website to compete.  This phenomenon increases the importance of utilizing social media, and it makes it completely necessary that the content on your site is relevant.

      Marketpath CMS | Indianapolis Content Management'But Colin, there are so many CMS options (many of them free) that allow users to update the content on their sites.'  This is true.  There might be literally hundreds of CMS tools out there on the web and they are relatively easy to find.  The problem is that many site administrators get lost along the way.  Once it becomes possible to keep a website up-to-date, many users still don't do as much as they should, because they don't know how.

      On the Content BusThis is where it is helpful to have a partner you can trust, a consultant who you can count on to point you in the right direction.  No one is born knowing how to optimize a site for search.  No one is born knowing how to create online conversions.  These things can be taught by knowledgeable professionals, and education is exactly what most organizations need to go along with their content management system.  We're here to help.  Class will be in session all week.  Feel free to attend.

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      Too Much is Never Enough (or is it?)

      Posted 5:38 PM by

      I've been actively involved in social media for about 4 months now and I'm just in a bit of conundrum.  How much is too much?  At some point I find that I've spent so much time commenting and posting comments and opinions that I just don't have anything new to say.  I don't have time to spend all day searching the internet for new things to write about, but I don't want to fall behind my social media peers.  How do they do it?

      Indianapolis Web RSS consultingI am very happy, however, that Lorraine Ball introduced me to friendfeed a few days ago.  Friendfeed has allowed me to combine all of my social media in one place via RSS feeds.  For those who were unable to see Scott Abel's web 2.0 seminar at the blogINDIANA conference a few months ago, an RSS feed is basically a standardized format for syndicating content anywhere on the web.  It certainly makes it easier to manage blogging, microblogging, and all of the other incarnations that help me stay connected, but there is annother purpose that actually purtains to this blog.

      I love feeds for SEO.  When you think about it, feeds are really the perfect no-work high-value addition to a website.  They are available on basically any topic you can think of (if it's out there, someone is willing to put their 2 cents in about it), and they provide your site with new content on a consistent basis.  My friend Aaron Douglas first taught me how to use RSS for SEO a few months ago and his advice has been invaluable to me.  Luckily, most CMS platforms like Marketpath allow for easy integration of feeds.

      So, even though I sometimes feel like there's nothing left to say and my well is dry, at least there is still a format that allows me to continue the social media journey.  For more information on using RSS feeds on your site feel free to contact me on smallerindiana, facebook, myspace, friendfeed, linked in, plaxo, twitter, letsmakeitrain, mwmcmusic, or by email.

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      Consider Your Audience

      Posted 4:33 PM by

      How many times do you visit a website and get exactly what you went there to get? If you’re experiencing what I’m experiencing, your seldom do. I tell my customers and prospects to repeatedly ask themselves who their website serves and what they’re looking for. If you’re having trouble thinking of what content to put online, that’s where you start.

      It seems the most commonly missed and hardest to find information is adequate contact information. The key to a happy customer is making sure they, at the very least, “think” you care.

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      Whitespace can be your friend

      Posted 6:47 PM by

      Whitespace is the empty or “negative” space between elements on a page. Those elements can be anything from paragraphs and bullet lists to images and advertisements. Utilization of whitespace in webpage layout is underrated and all too commonly underused. Whitespace can benefit visitors by preventing the feeling of being “overwhelmed” or being annoyed by too much "going on." Whitespace can also be used to create emphasis; focusing visitors on the most important information.

      Look at the difference between the following website screenshots:


      Figure 1


      Figure 2 

      Do you “feel” the difference between the two designs? What is the general feeling you get from figure 1 compared to figure 2? Figure 1 has an open and airy design creating a sense of sophistication and calm while Figure 2 exudes frustration and stress. Which would you rather your audience feel?

      When managing the content on your website, don’t be afraid to add some space between elements. It may be subtle but can really improve the visual effectiveness of your content.

       

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      It's a big SEO pie and there's enough to go around.

      Posted 8:08 PM by

      I'm a big fan of search.  That may seem obvious, but when we consider how far we've come in the last few decades, it really is outstanding.  Search engine optimization is obviously good for business, but when you consider it in the context of the consumer it really is very important.  You have to look at the search market just like any other market.  It's always going to be difficult to get any group of people to do anything unless there is money in it.  It would be impossible for google to properly index the web if sites didn't take the proper SEO precautions.  With that in mind, there are literally hundreds of SEO guidelines and tools available to ensure that your site can be found.

      This SEO piece is for meI'm a huge fan of website grader.  My favorite part about this tool is that it takes into account lots of different types of content and then ranks your site on a scale of one to a hundred.  This is supposed to somewhat accurately decide how well you will rise through the search rankings.  I especially like this site because it takes into account how much of any given SEO strategy you are using.  For example, if you have a lot of links, but are weak in other areas you will still rank favorably, because links are important.  If you are using blogging as a tool for inreasing your search rankings, then it takes the ranking of your blog into consideration.  It's also nice, because it provides simple and measurable steps that you can take to get it right. 

      I like to think of the web as a kind of 'economics of information.'  It's very similar to actual economics, except that instead of money you pay in knowledge.  Now, of course you can pay good money for SEO knowledge, but the beauty of it is that much of the good information is already available for free.  SEO can be a bit of a crap shoot, but if you are representing yourself honestly there is no reason to believe that anything is impossible.  Web 2.0 is here and there is MUCH more content than there once was.  There is really a world for everyone here, and proper SEO practices will ensure that the best content for you rises to the top.  Some terms are indeed very competitive.  This competition keeps the web healthy.  It's a big pie and there's enought to go around.

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      Left-Brain Marketing?

      Posted 8:05 PM by

      I am an avid reader.  Most recently I've been engrossed in 'A Whole New Mind' by Daniel Pink.  The premise of the book is that the importance of left-brain activities (like mathematics, data analysis, standardized tests, etc.) is lessening, while the importance of right-brain activities is increasing (art, music, empathy, feelings, etc.)  Basically, through the information age we've accumulated so much affluence through the automation of many of the critical stages of production that the consumer is now focused on the meaning and feelings they get from the products they buy.  The information is still important, but the meaning and concepts behind it is becoming paramount.We all market together

      This left-brain/right-brain mentality struggle is more than evident in the internet marketing world.  I was in a meeting just this morning with Mike Sidel of Indy Associates.  Like the Marketpath crew, he is all too aware of the struggle between the IT department and marketing.  IT typically handles a lot of left-brain activities (data analysis, problem diagnosis), but are often less skilled at understanding the right-brain concepts that are demanded of a successful marketing campaign.  IT is obviously an extremely important job.  Accounting software, email servers, and any other tech components need to be maintained so that people can do their jobs, but the website should be excluded from that.  WEBSITES ARE MARKETING TOOLS!  They need a lot of right-brain attention.  As Mike said, 'technology should be kept far away.'  How do we do this?

      Well, Marketpath accomplishes this by skillfully hiding the technology under a shell of sophistication and design.  We hide the hosting in our server (it's safe, I assure you).  We hide the code under an intuitive user interface.   We are adept right-brain thinkers, but we also have the left-brain skills to bring it all together and make it flow effortlessly.  When a customer chooses Marketpath they are choosing a software solution that gives them a feeling of safety and familiarity, as well as a team of left and right-brain thinkers who understand their goals. We are empathizers and synthesizers.  We are creators and meaning-finders.  We might be living in a new world of concepts, but the companies that succeed will be the ones who are able to find partners who can help, and that's why we're here.

       

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      Google Web Browser and What it Means for Marketing

      Posted 1:28 AM by

      Just two days after I post about Microsoft IE8, I get an alert that Google has announced their new web browser, Google Chrome, will be available in beta for download September 2nd. If you're not familiar with the term 'beta', it is basically a testing release before the official '1.0' is added. Read the official notice from Google.

      From a consumer perspective, hurray! I do like having a choice..... but not too many. Too many choices and I just get confused and easily cheated by imposters and me-toos (ok, I don't get cheated with software much because I am a developer by trade, but my Grandmother does... and my parents, and my sister, and my cousins.... I hope you get the point). So, now I can use Firefox (the champion of people who dislike Microsoft), or I can use Internet Explorer (the standard built-in browser for Microsoft Windows), or Safari (the Mac OS built-in), or Google Chome (a wonderfully simplistic, yet powerful browser - I'm sure). Of course, there are a couple others, but they barely register as a blip in the browser usage radar.

      From a developer/marketer's perspective, I am a little annoyed. Building rich and dynamic cross-browser websites can be a challenge, even though development has improved a lot over the last 5 years. There are still inconsistencies, mostly with Javascript and CSS (style sheets). Developing cross-browser websites is sort of like putting up a billboard that can only be read by people in certain types of cars. If you drive a BMW it appears perfect.  If you drive an '84 Chevy Celebrity (like my first car) the billboard shows a big red X. It's challenging to get the message right for everyone.

      If your website is not dynamic, i.e. contains no Javascript, then you will likely be fine. The challenge is with rich sites - those websites that have put a lot of time and effort into improving the user experience. There will most likely be compatibility issues and you will need to fix those as soon as you can.

      Google has a huge following. To many people, they are still the underling that develops cutting edge software. Once Chrome is released in beta, you can count on a ton of people trying it out - if not adopting it entirely. This means you need to test your corporate websites, landing pages, micro-sites, and customer applications.

      Google is pretty good at releasing quality software, but I have seen several applications in beta that were buggy. If Chrome gets adopted by a large number of consumers, I hope they have worked out most of the kinks.

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      The Future of Viral Marketing

      Posted 6:35 PM by

      I think viral mareting is pretty much the coolest thing in the world.  You do something cool, you post it online, and a few days later it has spread all over the web, you're famous, and (hopefully) the cash starts rolling in.  The problem with viral marketing is that it's so difficult to figure out what's going to be a hit.  Sure, I submitt my blog posts to digg.com and link back to my blog whenever I post anything on the web, but this is hardly viral marketing.  It takes a certain EDGE, a certain out-of-the-box thinking that makes it worth sindication.

      For my buck, the two most powerful viral marketing tools on the web are youtube and digg.com.  Youtube is fantastic because it is so easy to imbed videos on other sites.  This creates a syndication engine that exposes your content to an exponentially large audience.  I post it on youtube, everyone sees it there, some of them embed it in their blogs, websites, social media, etc. and before long everyone's seen it.  The problem with youtube is that there is so much content that it takes something extremely funny, shocking, impressive, etc. to inspire sindication.  The problem with most businesses is that they are beyond reluctiant to put something edgy out there for fear that it will make them look bad.  Unfortunately you have to have the guts to reap the rewards.

      I must admit that I don't know exactly why digg.com is so freakin awesome, but it totally is.  I could spend days there!  Apparently a lot of other people do to, but I don't personally know that many.  It's more of a community within a community, and it's one that I've fully embraced.  For those who are unfamiliar, digg is basically a forum for posting cool stuff that you find on the internet.  You post it and then anyone else who likes it can 'digg' it, and the more diggs a post has the better it's supposed to be.  Digg seems to work a little bit slower than youtube in a viral sense, but the content is way better.  If you've got hours to kill digg is awesome.   My favorite digg submissions are the 'top 10' lists.  You pick the top 10 best or worst or whatever of any topic you like.  In fact, I'm currently working on my own 'internet marketing' top 10 list.  Feel free to help me out with some suggestions.

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      InPrivateBlocking in Internet Explorer 8 - Few Worries

      Posted 1:52 PM by

      Microsoft Internet Explorer is getting a face lift and tummy tuck with Internet Explorer 8 (IE8).  IE8 is currently in beta form and available to average users. A formal release date has yet to be set. One of the biggest new features receiving a lot of hoopla right now is InPrivateBlocking. 

      InPrivateBlocking allows users to turn off browsing history, as well as the saving of temporary files and cookies. Browsing history and temporary files mostly affect just the user, however,not saving cookies affects the user and any company or organization tracking and recording information on their visitors. This has potentially big ramifications on organizations who rely on web-based advertising because there is a lot of tracking involved with web-based ads. It also affects companies who track and remember their visitors and display items based on their interests.

      So, organizations are worried their ad revenues will dry up because of this end to tracking. I'm not worried, though. First of all, the ability to block cookies is built into the major browsers right now.  It's just a little harder to find. Second, I'm sure there are a good number of people that don't want to be tracked at all - the 'big brother is watching us' mentality. But how many people truly think that way? 

      When I visit Amazon.com, I love the fact that it says 'Hello, Matt.  We have some recommendations for you.' And the recommendations are really things I'd be interested in. Or perhaps when I go to log into an email account, bank account or some other account that remembers who I am. The website doesn't store my password (unless you're silly enough to let your browser do that for you).  It just has my username - which I often forget because it varies from site to site if the traditional 'mzentz' is not available. It is really nice that these sites remember who I am and what my preferences and interests are.

      My point is that I wouldn't worry too much about user's turning off their cookies because most don't do it now. What I would worry about is why people are turning off their browsing history and temporary Internet files, because if they work for you, how will you know what websites they are really viewing while on your dime.

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      Analytics jr. much better than Krishna

      Posted 7:44 PM by

      Good Marketing is so ZenThe best thing about life is that there's all these new things to learn about and explore.  I'm fickle by nature.  I tend to not spend a whole lot of time on one subject, but instead to jump around to lots of topics.  My latest facination is analytics.  It's all I've really been talking about this week.

      So we've got this website that's supposed to be part of our marketing strategy and bring in leads and money and blah blah blah.  But here's the kicker...  It's not. It's not working the way it sould at all.  No leads are coming in.  No money. No nothing.  So what do we do?  We pull up our analytics numbers.  We find that our bounce rate is, say, 50%.  That's not bad.  It's actually pretty good.  We find also that our traffic is up.  Again, that's great, but where's the cash?  My guess is that it has something to do with the content on the site.  It's just not pursuasive enough.  So I pull up the CMS and start to tinker.  I add some great new content.  Then I wait and I measure.  A wise man once said that effective leaders 'make decisions quickly and change them slowly.'

      So this analytics is pretty powerful stuff.  I've got the numbers, and I've got the patience to see this thing through.  I know that marketing is not a sprint, but a series of marathons.  I'm so glad that I've got a CMS that is this flexible.  I've got real control over changes so that I can use the data I've collected in the wisest way possible.

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      Is the Blog the perfect search result?

      Posted 8:17 PM by

      Well is it?  At last weekend's blogINDIANA conference Chris Baggot of Compendium Blogware argued that the blog is the perfect search result.  He argued that it is in google's best interest to provide information that people want.  Now I love to blog.  I find it fun and therepudic and extremely enjoyable, but I don't necessarily believe that a blog entry the most relevant organic result on any given topic.

      That's not to say that I'm angry.  I'm glad that my old friend google loves blogs so much, because it helps me rank for many of the terms that are relevent to my business, but I have to think that if I were searching for 'indianapolis corporate blog software' that I would rather be taken to a page that had definitive information on the topic, not some random blog entry written by someone like me.  I know that google's love affair with the corporate blog is good for marketers, but is it good for the consumer?

      With that in mind, how long can google's blog obsession last?  How long before blogs are relegated to the types of specialty blog searches of the past and what will those who have invested heavily in the blog as a marketing tool do if it someday goes away?  I don't have the answers to these questions, but for now I'm glad that my blogs are tops for search.  I'll rest easy knowing that a full featured content management system with blog technology is doing its job by positively impacting my marketing stra 

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      Web Power Tools (I love power tools)

      Posted 6:28 PM by

      Web Power ToolsI wanted to take a minute to discuss the various tools available.  Which tools should you have?  How should you use them?  And what do you get for your investment?  Let's start with content management (CMS).  This is not an area where you want to pinch pennies.  Your web content is the life blood of your web presence.  Your CMS should allow you to edit textual content in every area of your site.  This is important, because changing text placement and content has a dramatic effect on your search optimization and marketing effectiveness.  It should be easy to create links within the site, as well as create, delete, and modify menu items.  Finally (and this is a big one), your CMS should have powerful and versatile image tools that allow you to easily link pictures, resize, and ad alt image tags.

      It's impossible for me to talk about a CMS without mentioning search engine optimization.  Google indexes all the content on your site, so every time you update content it tends to help.  But, in addition to content a CMS 'power tool' should allow you to easily customize your meta data, meta keywords, title tags, as well as the aforementioned alt image tags.  Your CMS should also allow RSS feeds, and allow you to create a 'call to action page' such as a 'request a demo' or 'quote' page.  Getting visitors to this page is the #1 reason you paid for someone to design the site for you, so it's important that it's done right.

      The most powerful weapon in the savvy marketer's arsenal is their blog tool.  Again, it's important that you get this right.  Take a look on the right side of this page.  Those are categories.  Each of those categories catalogues blog entries relevant to that topic and each one is associated with its own URL which is updated dynamically each time a new post is added.  This means that by writing this post I am updating many other URL's.  This is a very very good thing for my search marketing campaign.  The point is that there are tons of web tools out there, but not many 'web power tools.'  We've all got budgets to work with, so spend your money wisely.  Make sure you're getting the most marketing bang for your marketing buck.

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      Do you have what it takes to win marketing gold?

      Posted 4:49 PM by

      What would you give to be the best?  What would you do to establish your company as the premier expert in your field?  Sadly, the answer to these questions is often 'not much.'  Why is this?  Why are phrases like 'it sells itself' still in our vocabulary.  I am often baffled by stories of the pet rock and grey goose vodka (it typically scores well bellow cheaper vodkas in blind taste tests).  These companies made millions off of marketing alone. 

      Marketing gold, silver, or bronze?

      I'm definitely not saying that you should ignore the quality of your product offering or turn your back on innovation, but your marketing should be given just as much consideration.  Olympic athletes train with absolute conviction and total dedication.  That's what it takes to be the best.  Too many business owners are so afraid of making a bad decision that they're left with indecision and indecision is what drives people crazy!

      Now my job is to consult with people about their online marketing.  I know that marketing decisions are sometimes hard to make.  How much should you spend on search marketing and SEO?  How much should I dedicate to web design?  Should I pay a consultant to monitor the content on my site and blog?  These are not easy questions to answer, but we must have the courage and conviction to face them.  The only way to truly grow your business is to pick a plan and stand by it with total conviction.  Go for the gold.

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      Semantic Web

      Posted 10:23 AM by

      I met with Scott Abel this past Tuesday and we briefly spoke about semantic search.  I'll admit, I've read about semantic search in the past but I wasn't very familiar with it.  So I did a little more research.

      Semantic search is based on objects instead of just keywords, as traditional search is today. Today's search engines (Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc) find websites that contain the keywords you entered. Now, if I typed in "horn" I will get many different results.  I will get results for french horns, Cape Horn, Horn's Gaslight Bar & Restaurant on Mackinac Island, Hansen & Horn, and many other results.  But I will have to sort through all of those results to find what I'm really looking for, my grade school gym teacher "Mr. Horn." 

      Semantic search would allow me to sort results by the type of object instead of just wether the pages included my keywords.  When I type "horn" I could also include "person."  So my query might be "person horn." A good semantic web search engine would also recognize that many different object types exist for the word horn and present those to me so I could easily narrow my selection.

      We constantly hype about good keyword placement and strong search engine optimization but semantic web presents a different twist in search that could yield much more relevant results and get us to the information we want faster. Semantic search has a long way to go before being fully adopted but it is something to keep your eye on.

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      Marketpath Sponsors blogINDIANA 2008

      Posted by
      8/4/2008 - Marketpath will be sponsoring blogINDIANA 2008.  Local bloggers from across Indiana will gather at the IUPUI Campus Center on August 16-17th, 2008, for Blog Indiana 2008, a 2-day blogging and social media conference that aims to promote education, innovation and collaboration among Indiana’s fast-growing blogging community.

      Marketpath sponsors blogINDIANA 2008Blog Indiana 2008 is a 2-day conference for both experienced and new bloggers alike. Sessions will include topics such as blogging for beginners, using blogs in your business, monetizing your blog, political blogging and more advanced topics. In the past, most blogging and technology-related conferences have either been too expensive or too far out-of-state. Blog Indiana 2008 seeks to bring a low-cost, high-value conference to Hoosier bloggers.

      Blogging regularly is a great way to increase search engine visibility and engage website visitors.  Blogging should be easy and yield positive results.  This is why we built a blogging component right into our content management system, Markeptath CMS.

      Sign up for the conference now to better leverage blogging and improve you website ROI. 

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      Marketpath CMS Sponsors the Blog Indiana Conference

      Posted 6:03 PM by

      blog indiana  - indianapolis - august 16 and 17

      I just wanted to take a minute to discuss the upcoming Blog Indiana Conference on August 16 and 17 at the IUPUI Campus center in downtown Indianapolis.  Check out the website.  I'm super excited for the event.  I think it's 50 bucks to attend and will feature awesome speakers and discussions about the state of the blog union.

      One of the reasons I'm so excited is that as most people know I'm relatively new to the blogosphere, and I'm extremely interested in what the leaders in the blog world have been doing all this time.  I've been amazed at how our SEO marketing has been affected by our blog strategy.  It's also a lot of fun.

      The other reason I'm so excited is that Marketpath CMS will be one of the sponsors of the event.  I'm thrilled to be attending and to see how the future will unfold for this fantastic social media.

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      The House that Ruth Built

      Posted 4:37 PM by

      Out with the Old, in with the NewI am headed to Yankee Stadium this weekend for the first time ever.  It is now or never for me.  Even if you don't follow baseball, you probably know what Yankee Stadium is, but you might not know why it has become a now or never scenario.  After this season, Yankee Stadium will be torn down.  The Yanks are moving across the street to 'New Yankee Stadium.'  All of the history and prestige will be gone.  The Yankees are updating one of the biggest things they are known for. 

      This brings me to one question.  If the Yankees can part ways with their stadium and the lore that is associated with it, why can't people part ways with their old marketing strategies?  Today, people find their information through the web.  Even if a piece of mail reaches a potential customer, the piece of mail usually pushes the reader to find our more information about the company on the web.  Now it doesn't make much sense to create an identity on a postcard or letter and then send someone to an outdated website.  By using a content management system, you can change your website as your marketing changes.  Creating an overall brand is the goal isn't it? 

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      Fins to the left - Fins to the right - You're the only bait in town.

      Posted 5:34 PM by

      Last night I joined thousands of other parrotheads to witness the Indianapolis performance of Jimmy Buffet and the Coral Reefer Band, and I came to an interesting epiphany; as much as I've always enjoyed his music, Jimmy Buffet is not a musical genius.  He is, however, a certified marketing genius.  What is the key to his success?  I argue that all of the success that Jimmy Buffet has ever had can be directly attributed to FRESH CONTENT!

      Search Engine Optimization | Indianapolis Website Marketing | Jimmy Buffet = Master Marketer | Yes I am a pirate!Think about it.  The great thing about Jimmy Buffet is that he's always doing something new.  For example, at last night's show his big new push was for Landshark Lager, a new beer he released this year which is very similar to Corona.  You can bet that there were hundreds of signs, t-shirts, banners, hats, etc. plastered all over everything and everyone in the arena.

      Imagine if the promotional memorabilia wasn't at the venue.  Imagine if JB wasn't promoting the new product on his website.  Do you think there would have been anywhere near that amount of hype?  Absolutely not!  Every business changes.  It's the only way to stay relevant in the market.  Your website marketing must reflect your most recent activity.  Your search engine optimization should be kept as up-to-date as possible to make absolutely sure that people looking for your company find it, even if you're not quite as famous as Jimmy Buffet.

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      Instant Gratification

      Posted 2:57 PM by

      I got up early on Saturday to stand in line for the Jesus Phone iPhone 3G at the Apple store, and as I'm waiting for the doors to open, I had plenty of time to think.  Of course first and foremost on my mind was calculating how much of my life is spent standing in some type of line.  Everyday I stand in line at lunch.  Sometimes on Fridays and Saturdays I wait for over 30 minutes for a table to open up at St. Elmos Arby's.  I got stuck in traffic this morning for another 20+ minutes because some people dont know how to drive

      All of this time adds up.  Where is my instant gratification?  Jimmy Johns comes close, but I'm still in a 2 minute line waiting for my delicious Gargantuan.

      Thankfully, with Marketpath CMS, there is no waiting.  You don't need someone else to publish the website content you need out NOW.  Click, Edit, Publish. BOOM! Instant Gratification.  Your new changes are live to the world.

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      There is a New Player in Search

      Posted 1:14 PM by

      As I was sifting through all of the usual news stories on CNN this morning, I came across one that piqued my interest (thanks, Dave).  There is a new search engine in town.  Started by a couple of ex-Googlers, 'Cuil' has launched in the recent days and has a new, and perhaps better, method for indexing and ranking websites.  Cuil's idea is that popularity of a website shouldn't be the dominant factor to whether a site can be found or not.  Their philosophy is this:  relevant content matters. 

      They aren't tracking users, counting links, or being picky about who gets indexed and who doesn't.  They have indexed over 120 billion pages so far, and you can expect that number to grow pretty quickly.  Cuil has the idea that the internet has grown, search should too. 

      If content is in fact becoming king, then it has become very apparent that having a way to manage that content is extremely important.  An easy-to-use content management system can take away any frustration that updating a website can cause.  No longer does it need to take an hour to make a change, with the right system (Marketpath CMS, hint hint) it can take only a few seconds.  If I have said it once, I'll say it again, providing relevant and up to date content can be the difference in driving traffic to your website.      

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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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      Does your Internet marketing have good legs?

      Posted 11:09 AM by

      Higgly Town Heroes have no legsLegs are important to most people, animals, and tables.  Legs are not important to the Higgly Town Heroes.  I have asked my four year old son repeatedly, 'How do they get places?'  He doesn't understand the question.  He says they just do.  Good enough, I suppose, for an animation and a four year old. 

      Internet marketing legsBut what about your wine?  Does your wine have good legs?  Many people think legs are a great indicator of a great wine.

      What about your Internet marketing initiatives.  Do they have good legs?  Here's another way to ask the same question.  Does your Internet marketing program have a solid foundation with which you can measure, analyze, and make adjustments as necessary?  Can you measure website ROI?  If you said 'no,' then you are like most businesses that are trying to leverage the web as a marketing tool. 

      A good place to start is with a marketing firm that will help you plan and establish baseline goals.  Most website development or design firms are not marketing firms.  Sure, they can build a killer website, but when it comes to getting a true return on investment, you need to have a strategy, a game plan, or..... good legs.  Be sure to select a partner that can help you build a strong foundation so you can measure true ROI. 

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      Fridays, Marketing, and.....well.....Fridays

      Posted 7:35 PM by

      Who doesn't love Fridays!?  Any stress or negativity that hung over my head all week seems to be miraculously erased by the promise of the rapidly approaching weekend.  Yes sir my friends it's time to sprawl out on the porch, pop the top on a frosty beverage and just enjoy the night. 

      Friday Marketing BluesUnfortunately, I've got some serious marketing to consider before 'porch time' is even an issue.  I've got customer reports to run, SEO keywords to research, and a pile of potential customers to contact.  It can often be difficult to get in touch with the right people on a lazy Friday afternoon.  It always seems like 50% of the workforce knocks off early to get a head start on the weekend.

      It's times like these that I'm glad my website is here to pick up some of the slack.  I know that if any potential customers feel the need to announce themselves over the weekend, they can simply tune out, log on, and opt in to whichever of my offerings that might spark their interest.  I can rest easy knowing that my web content is relevent, I've done my SEO homework, and the marketing that I've been slaving over all week will see me through.  Finally...It's Friday.

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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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      Content Management Made Easy

      Posted 2:49 AM by

      What stands in the way of you updating your website more frequently?  (Lack of) technology, that's what!  Machines should be doing the busy work, not you.  You should be able to freely express your ideas and opinions using tools that make the job easy.  So what are you going to do about it?

      Marketpath CMS makes editing content easy.  Easy enough for this guy.  Maybe.  Thats the idea anyway.  You get where I'm going with this...Content management used to be in the hands of only the programmers (and the bosses who tell them what to do), but given the right tools for the job, anyone can contribute relevant content to their company's website.  With Marketpath CMS, you can update your site as fast as you can think type.

      Skills can vary wildly between human beings.  Some can be bad at both spelling and haircuts yet be great at growing a killer moustache and wearing a bandana.  Some are outstanding at writing code and somehow bad at bowhunting.  Should a lack of programming skills keep you from being able to update your company's website?  No!  You should put the power back in your hands and make things easy with Marketpath CMS. 

      Having said that...  Just because anyone can manage content doesn't mean you should let everyone and their brothers have control of your content.  You still need to make sure your content management is in competent hands.  Maybe we'll talk about that problem, and Marketpath's solution to it, next time. 

      BTW, yes... the Cardinals are my favorite team, and I realize he is wearing a Cardinals shirt.  Some of us redbird fans can actually spell... Its just a coincidence, I ashure you.

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      Need a Paradigm Shift?

      Posted 5:04 PM by

      If your content is old, you're burning cash!Lately, when I have been asking people 'what does your company's website do for you?', I have been getting the same response.  'Well, it doesn't really do much of anything.  It is mostly informational and that information never changes.'  I dread this response.  I wonder to myself, why even have a website?  If the information hasn't changed since the site was launched circa 1998, then why people keep paying for hosting? 

      Exisitng customers aren't using it, because they know what is there...the content hasn't been updated in years.  New, potential customers (if they can find your site) see an outdated website and wonder if the company still exists.  This isn't the best first impression that a company could be making.  It really takes a paradigm shift to realize what you could be missing out on.

      Everyone knows that when people want information nowadays they turn to the internet.  Everything that you need an answer or a service for is right at your fingertips.  Potential buyers are looking for sites that make sense, are usable, and the content is up to date.  A content management system and a fresh web design are two of the most cost effective ways to spend marketing dollars.  Your site is available 24 hours a day to people that are looking for the information you provide.  What could be better than that?  Its targeted marketing at its finest.  When used effectively, web content management can be what seperates you from your competitors.    

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      Promoting Your Site with CMS and SEO

      Posted 4:30 PM by

      Indianapolis | SEO | CMS | MarketingMarketing proffesionals all over the world are scrambling to beat their competition at the web race.  Who will finish first?  Who's marketing is the best marketing?  What techniques will put your company at the top. 

      Search Engine Optimization is a buzzword that is currently circulating around the marketing world.  There are companies that charge tens of thousands of dollars, and still can't guarantee that your name will rank on the first page of the Google organic search. 

      The truth is that there is no guarantee when it comes to SEO.  It is easy to rank for certain terms, because very few people are searching for them.  Other terms are nearly impossible to rank for. 

      A good CMS is an integral part of attaining high organic search rankings.  If content has been posted recently, search engines look at it more seriously (would you rather read yesterday's newspaper or today's newspaper?).  Another powerful tool is the corporate blog.  I have a business associate who was able to significantly increase his search rankings simply by writing in his blog regularly.  We the people want new content!

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      AJAX, Web 2.0, and SEO

      Posted 7:37 PM by

      In my last post I wrote about the downfalls of flash, search engine optimization, and direct linking.  Now it's time to talk about AJAX and web 2.0 and how search engines perceive the two.  First of alll, let's define AJAX and web 2.0.

      AJAX is an achronym for Asynchronous Javascript And XML.  It provides web clients (e.g. Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari) a mechanism for delivering rich experiences for its users.  Google Suggest  is an example of an application that uses AJAX.  As you type, suggestions appear that you can click on to quickly select your topic.  Notice that the entire screen doesn't refresh.  Instead of the browser making a call back to the original web server for a whole new page (including suggestions) it only updates the list of suggestions by passing the typed characters to the server - using AJAX.  The amount of data is very small and the data returned is also very small.... thus very fast.

      AJAX enables the concept of web 2.0 - the rich user experience.  It is a great idea to build in a rich experience that makes it easier and more inuitive for users to interact.  Our web content management system has an enormous amount of AJAX programming.  But the problem is with search engines.

      AJAX is based on Javascript and Javascript is based on user events (e.g. mouse-up, mouse-down, click, etc).  Search engines don't have the capability to launch javascript events which means if your website's navigation is based on AJAX (which, again, uses Javascript) then search engines will not be able to index it.  This means the website pages you want people to find will not be found because they were never indexed. 

      The moral of the story is to use AJAX sparingly if you want your website to be indexed by search engines and definitely do not setup your navigation with AJAX or Javascript.  Check with a knowledgeable software developer and SEO firm and ask them if your site is SEO friendly.

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      The Re-run Theory

      Posted 7:29 PM by

      I was in a meeting with a friend of mine, Jill Harding, last week when she told me a great analogy for keeping a website's content up to date.  She asked me the question, 'How many times can you watch the same Seinfeld episode before you just change the channel?'  I know that Seinfeld is one of the all-time great shows, but with no new episodes coming out, you know what to expect out of each show.

      Stale Content
      You had a great run guys, but I'm ready for something new

      The same goes for stale content on a web page.  Users, and potential clients, will only come back so many times to view the same content before they realize that what they are looking for isn't there.  They will find their information somewhere else, leaving your website to become more and more outdated and obsolete, and you are left with your same old customer base. 

      Search engines operate in the same fashion.  If they crawl your website every month and realize that nothing has changed, they are less likely to come back and index your website for search.  Updating content on a regular basis can remedy this situation and invite the search engine spiders to re-index your site more frequently.  Increasing how frequently you update the content can greatly improve your overall web presence and help your website become a source for information for your customers.

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      Searchable Flash

      Posted 2:13 AM by

      Flash and SEO - Marketpath Content Management Solution IndianapolisUsing Adobe Flash within a website at one time was the bane of search engine visibility.  Although Flash sites were often dazzling, highly interactive, and dynamic, they were not adequately being indexed (if at all) by the big search engines.  Here's a flashback article from 2003 on this topic. 

      Adobe has just announced a plug-in available to Google and Yahoo that allows their search engines to act like a user clicking thorugh a flash website.  This seems to be the latest effort at indexing Flash sites but some say that obtaining a high search position willl still be difficult because of the inability to provide direct links within the flash site. 

      For example, if a blogger finds a page in a flash site that is several clicks deep she will not be able to link directly to that page in her blog.  Instead, she would have to link to the front page (the page that loads initially) and instruct the user how to get to the deeper level page.  Yuck!

      So, if you want to build a highly interactive website, use AJAX and Web 2.0 technologies instead of Flash.  You can still use Flash movies embedded within your site but don't let the Flash handle your website navigation.  I'd like to caution, though, that AJAX and Web 2.0 have their own issues which I'll tackle in my next post.

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      Do-It-Yourself SEO

      Posted 1:18 AM by

      We tell clients all the time that we will help initiate a program to improve search results and help find the right keywords to use throughout their website.  We also say that the rest is basically up to them.  And because they are using a web content management solution (Marketpath CMS... of course) ongoing SEO is about producing lots of relevant content that engages website visitors. 

      In his blog entry Three SEO Myths Debunked, Mike Volpe wrote 'If I had $100,000 to invest in SEO, I would hire a journalist to create lots of articles and videos, not an SEO consultant.'

      There is only so much code tweaking you can do to optimize a website for search.  Hiring a firm on retainer to provide SEO consulting is like hiring GM on retainer to fill your gas tank once a week.  You definitely need GM to build the car but it is cost prohibitive to have them filling your gas tank. 

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      AJAX and Web 2.0

      Posted 3:41 AM by

      Ajax in many ways is the basis for Web 2.0.  The funny thing is that Ajax has been around long before the word web 2.0 was coined.  Microsoft developed a Javascript function for Internet Explore 5 called XmlHttpRequest.  This is the essence of Ajax.  One single function which seems to have caused an overnight explosion of rich web-based applications.

      Web 2.0 is based on this because Web 2.0 is highly interactive - similar to what you would find in a desktop application.  Web 2.0 is about the rich user experience.  No slow page loads or postbacks.  Almost instant data and responses because most of the processing is performed on the client machine as opposed to the server (where most processing took place 5 years ago). 

      Google maps and Microsoft's LiveSearch both use a great deal of Ajax and web 2.0 methodologies.  Another site with Ajax examples (the first one that showed up in search results) is http://www.ajaxdaddy.com/.

      Marketpath CMS uses Ajax throughout the entire application on every page and every dialog.  We could probably stretch all of our Ajax code from coast to coast in 12pt font. 

      Developing web-based applications with Ajax and web 2.0 methodologies is no longer cutting edge.  It is a requirement for intutive, easy-to-use, and responsive user interaction.

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      My 2nd biggest pet peeve

      Posted 3:03 AM by

      Have you ever seen a faux balcony on a house?  Or perhaps some other fake feature that had no functional use whatsoever?  This really bugs me.  Being a programmer, I am all about functionality.  Luckily, our product interface isn't developed by me.  If it was, it would likely resemble an emacs editor

      practical internet marketing - faux balcony

      This picture causes strife in my life because I would insist on putting in real doors, not the appearance of doors.  I like real.  I like functional.

      This goes for websites as well.  I often come across sites that have a list of services or products that don't link to further information.  I also see sites that have images that look like buttons but aren't linked to more information.  And of course, the worst is when sites have broken forms, broken links, or broken images. 

      Now, I understand broken elements aren't planned like the ugly faux door above, but they are a product of the tools used, the individuals level of training using them, and the organizations commitment to the website.  These small faux issues cause immediate headaches and frustration with visitors and will likely turn them away.

      So be sure to check your website for broken elements and don't try to trick your visitors with the appearance of something that should truly be functional.  Your website is not a Hollywood set.  It is a direct extension of your voice and your message to potentital and existing customers.

      And just for the record, my #1 pet peeve is double doors where one door seems to always be locked.  Some even have a sign that says "Please use other door".  Can't the people who unlock the doors turn the little key for the second door too?  I don't get it.... but of course, I don't unlock doors for a living.

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      Do you like stale bread?

      Posted 1:36 AM by

      Internet marketing, stale pages, and stale breadProbably not. So why would do so many marketers and business owners let their website visitors enjoy stale page content?  Visitors come for a reason.  They're evaluating whether or not there is something they want.  They arrive with questions or curiousity.  How well are their questions or curiosities answered?

      If you look at a stale piece of bread from far off it is likely to appear normal.  But if you inspect it closely, or worse take a bite, you will certainly notice it is stale.

      crostini stale websites - practical internet marketingWebsite content is no different.  Visitors may, at first glance, think the content is fresh and updated, but with a closer look they will quickly get a sense that it is stagnant.  Everything from the design of the site to the copy contained within, a website needs to convey relevant, convincing, and updated information.

      With stale bread you can always cut it up and make crostini.  But slicing stale website pages into little toasts isn't exactly an option.

       

       

       

       

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      Oil is Good

      Posted 2:59 AM by

      My wife has a 10 year old car that is used soley to get to and from work.  It runs well, it still looks nice, and it gets great gas mileage.  The only negative factor is that is burns through a quart of oil each month.  Let a few months go by and I begin hearing the knocking sound of unlubed lifters in the engine.  At that point, it desperately needs oil.

      Luckily, the engine did not lock up.  Isn't it nice, though, that our cars tell us when they need oil by flashing the oil light?  Unfortunately, your website doesn't have a warning light like this to tell you when it needs some maintenance.

      Like a car, you must keep you website well oiled so it runs smoothly.  And by "running smoothly" I mean your website is engaging visitors so they either buy or move to the next step in the buying process.

      Keeping your website oiled takes continuous effort.  You must make relevant updates frequently.  You must provide quality content to engage your visitors and keep them coming back.  And you must constantly measure the results.

      To do this in a cost effective manner you need a proven web content management system.  A good web content management system will provide tools to update your website without the need to call in a programmer.  A good web content management system will also provide you measurement tools to help you guage your website's effect on your bottom line.

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      Packaged Content Management

      Posted 3:39 AM by

      I was just reading a post from Chris Baggott's blog titled Blogging Best Practices about installed vs. hosted software.  Compendium Blogware, Chris' company, is a hosted or software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution that requires no IT assistance to setup.  This allows corporate bloggers to get right down to the business of blogging.  

      Marketpath CMS is also software-as-a-service.  More often than not, people ask about the difference between our content management solution and installed CMS software like Adobe Contribute or Ektron.  

      Here are a few of the key benefits of our content management solution:
      • It's incredibly easy! Requires no knowledge of HTML
      • Fast setup and implementation
      • 100% browser based so it is accessible from anywhere
      • No upgrades to install because software updates are applied automatically
      • No IT staff required
      • Unlimited, easily accessible support
      Here are some of the disadvantages of using installed software like Adobe Contribute:
      • Usually requires some HTML coding
      • Can only be used on the PC it is installed on
      • Requires IT staff to install, implement, train, support, and install upates.
      • Per seat license fees
      • Limited support options from vendor

      In the end, serious Internet marketers will choose a solution that frees them up for valuable Internet marketing and not software configuration. 

       

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      Internet Marketing Stagnation

      Posted 2:35 AM by

      Recently one of our prospects chose another firm to handle their website redesign.  Not only was our offer less expensive, we also included our content management solution so they could easily update their site and add new pages as needed.  Knowing we were up against a friend of the owner we offered to work together with them.  They would do the redesign and we would provide the CMS.  They decided to just redesign their site.
       
      Their response for not choosing CMS was:  "If we didn't update our site before then I doubt we'll update it in the future". 
       
      This was one of my "I don't get it" moments.  The company chose to pay a lot more for only a redesign and no means to keep the website fresh, updated and inline with their other marketing initiatives.  To me, this is the equivalent of having your company truck painted with your logo and website address then keeping it parked in a garage so no one can drive it or see it.  Why waste your money?

      Using a content management solution would have given them the tools to edit site content, measure its effect, adjust as necessary, measure again, adjust..... and on and on.  They could have created landing pages for offline marketing initiatives and measured the direct impact those initiatives had.  They could have created microsites to target a particular niche.  The benefits are virtually endless.  Instead, they chose a road that leads to stagnation.
       
      I guess the good news is that now we have a little more time to help another company that understands the bigger picture.
       
       
       

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      Harding Poorman Uses CMS

      Posted by

      4/24/2008 - Harding Poorman Group, an Indianapolis printing company that specializes in offset printing, printing on plastics, wide-format printing, one-to-one marketing, cd/dvd duplication and mailing/fulfilment services, has chosen Marketpath for website design, search engine optimization and web content management for its seven websites.

      The new Harding Poorman Group websites will be completed and live in early June.

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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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      IU Natatorium Launches Reg. App

      Posted by

      1/29/2008 - The Indiana University Natatorium launched its new online swim program and summer day camp registration application.  Marketpath provided the application and database programming while the Natatorium used their existing website and a new website for sport camps and summer day camps. 

      The IU Natatorium used their own website designers who worked with Marketpath to seamlessly integrate the existing and new designs with the new application.

      View Swim Programs and Camps

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      Sysco Chooses Marketpath CMS

      Posted by

      11/1/2007 - SYSCO Food Services of Indianapolis, LLC (http://www.syscoindy.com) launched a new website designed by Marketpath.  The website provides a new marketing channel to regional clients and prospects and offers a central location for finding event information, market news, employment and great recipes.

      SYSCO is using Marketpath CMS to manage website content, documents and images.  This allows them to maintain fresh content and an updated location for company events and news.

      Marketpath also built a custom event management application so SYSCO can provide online registration to their clients.

      We are proud to have SYSCO as a new customer and look forward to a strong, enduring partnership.

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      ServerPartners - FileEngine

      Posted by

      10/18/2007 - Servers Partners, maker of the easy to use office file server FileEngine©(http://www.fileengine.com), has chosen Marketpath CMS to manage their website content.

      Marketpath has a strong relationship with Server Partners that has lasted many years.  We build custom applications and more to help Server Partners grow their business more effectively.

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      IUPUI Chooses Marketpath CMS

      Posted by

      8/24/2007 - IUPUI Auxiliary Services has chosen Marketpath CMS as the preferred tool to manage eight of its organizational websites. 

      IUPUI Auxiliary Services' business units consist of the IU  Natatorium, Indianapolis Tennis Center, Michael A. Carroll Track & Soccer Stadium, Mail Services, Food Services, Bookstore, University Place Conference Center & Hotel and the National Art Museum of Sport.

      IUPUI Auxililary Services is a complex organization that blends business, sport and art to support the educational and cultural needs of the entire campus. By using Marketpath CMS, the Auxiliary business units have the abillity to provide University students and staff with frequent and relevant content updates while maintaining consistent branding across each of their sites.

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      NorthPark Community Credit Union

      Posted by
      7/15/2007 - NorthPark Community Credit Union has chosen Marketpath CMS to manage its website (http://www.northparkccu.org).

      NorthPark provides a broad range of financial products and services in a professional and friendly environment. Services, products and especiallly rate changes require very frequent updates. By utilizing the benefits of Marketpath CMS, NorthPark is able to make these updates any time of day without the delay and cost of a contracted website developer.

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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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      Introducing Marketpath CMS

      Posted by

      4/30/2007 - Indianapolis, IN - Marketpath, Inc., an Indianapolis-based software development firm, has implemented Indy's first full-featured content management solution that offers an easier way to manage websites.

      Outdated and stagnant websites are a major ailment for the Internet's business community and Marketpath has the remedy.  With sophisticated tools for editing and publishing website content, Marketpath CMS can lower website maintenance costs and the time to publish by virtually eliminating programmers.

      Most website pages are 80% to 90% static information.  Companies can spend $100 per hour or more to keep those pages updated.  The money used for updates could be better spent on custom software development that connects and enhances relationships with customers.  Simple website updates should be left to capable marketing staff using a full-featured content management solution like Marketpath CMS.

      Marketpath CMS allows users to manage everything from website pages, headers and footers to documents, images and navigational menus.  Marketpath CMS also provides visitor statistics so users can see what pages are receiving the most visits, where those visitors are originating and where visitors typically abandon the site.

      Marketpath CMS not only makes website updates easier and more convenient through its browser based toolset, it also lowers website maintenance costs and decreases the time it takes to deploy those updates.

      Click here for more information.....

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