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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.


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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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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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.


  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? 


  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?


  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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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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Google's New +1 Feature Bridging Gap Between Social and Search?

Posted 5:30 PM by

Google's +1 LogoOver the next few weeks, everyone that uses Google will begin to see its new "+1" feature showing up in search results and across the web.  This new feature can be thought of as the Facebook "Like" button, as it is simply a recommendation for whatever type of content the +1 icon is attached to.  Once activated, the button will change colors, letting you know that you have "+1'd" the article, ad, webpage, image, or video (and on and on).  If one of your friends or contacts happens to come across that particular piece of content that you "+1'd", they will see your name as someone who recommends that information.  Each time you "+1" something, you're basically leaving your mark to all that follow that you trust this piece of content, and that it is worth checking out.  It's a much more passive way to recommend something to your network than sending an email, or a tweet, or posting on Facebook.

We've seen Google dip its toes into the "social pool" before, often times with failed results.  Google Buzz, which was launched last year, didn't really ever gain traction compared to Facebook, Twitter, and 4Square - all of which it was trying to compete with or replace.  Google Wave was another foray into the social collaboration world that crashed and burned.  On the other hand, the new +1 feature might have some added benefit in the search engine optimization world, which would make it a very enticing new avenue to pursue.  It is far too early to tell, however, how Google will utilize these "+1's" in its algorithm, but I would fully expect Google to factor the data in at some point.  There is already plenty of speculation out there about what Google has up its sleeve, like in this article from CMS Wire, or this one from Search Engine Land.

With so much attention being given to social media these days, it will be interesting to see how all of this plays out in the corporate marketing world.  Will we soon see TV ads ending with "Like us on Facebook AND +1 us on Google?" Will the social media experts out there begin to measure how many "+1's" you have and try to assign a monetary value to it?  Or, will this be another failed attempt at seamlessly bridging the gap between social media and search?

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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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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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    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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    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


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

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    Google Instant and What it Means for Search 

    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    Marketpath Storefront Syncs with Google Product Search

    Posted by
    After a few head-scratching attempts, Marketpath's developers have succeeded in the goal of providing an automatic submission feed for a catalog of products to the Google product database.  In other words, if you have an e-commerce site that is utilizing Marketpath Storefront, your products now have the chance to show up in the "Shopping" listings under Google results.  This will lead to an increase in impressions (the number of people that see your products), and it should ultimately lead to more site traffic and sales. 

    Marketpath Syncs with Google Products

    The great part about Google Product search is the ability to look for something extremely specific.  Potential customers that are using this service from Google usually know exactly what they are looking for, making the purchasing decision even easier.


    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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    Website Marketing (part 2 of 3) - Engagement

    Posted 7:19 PM by

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

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

    Content: Traditional Web Pages


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

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

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

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

    Content: Social Media

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

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

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

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


    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

    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 demystifies SEO for the Indianapolis Convention & Visitor’s Association

    Posted by

    Friday, February 27 - PR pros from ICVA organizations such as The Children’s Museum, the Indiana Historical Society, the Indiana Restaurant Association, Indianapolis Museum of Art and the Indianapolis Indians gathered at Conseco Fieldhouse yesterday to hear our very own Adam Brand and TJ Furman demystify search engine optimization (SEO). The discussion was targeted towards a public relations audience, but the broader message is relevant to anyone interested in SEO. We have made the materials- SEO for Pulic Relations available and welcome you to view them.

    If you have ever searched for information about an event, restaurant or ticket sales in Indianapolis, you can appreciate why this group was interested in SEO. There is a lot going on in the Circle City and in a way they are all vying for a piece of our shrinking attention span. Stop updating your Facebook status! On Thursday, Adam and TJ explained how SEO makes content more easily found through keyword searches. No smoke and mirrors or complicated lingo. Nothing to be afraid of- SEO is our friend!

    For example, I did a Google search for ‘Indianapolis St. Patrick’s Day’ to see what appeared first in the search results. It was: Indy Sports Foundation. They are promoting several events related to St. Patrick’s Day, but the company’s mission is to support amateur sports in central Indiana. This first page may give you all the St. Paddy’s Day parade information you were looking for, but you may stay and click around to learn more about the Foundation (I did). Being that first search result is important and SEO will help you get there.

    The participants at the ICVA talk on Thursday had questions ranging from basic to advanced which demonstrated a range of experience. Regardless of your comfort level with SEO practices, intimidation should not be a factor in getting started. There are endless resources available to learn about SEO and once you get started you’ll be glad you did.

    While it was only a 1 hour discussion, Adam and TJ laid building blocks for all of the PR pros in the room to begin thinking about how they can each create a foundation of SEO-based communication strategies that will work for their organization. If you are interested in learning more about SEO and how it relates to what you do, contact anyone at Marketpath and we can start a conversation.

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    Reduce marketing 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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    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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    Internet Marketing Fundamentals

    Posted 1:39 PM by

    Focusing on the fundamentalsWith Internet marketing, just like in your personal life, you have to focus on fundamentals. Here is a picture of my son Ethan.  This is his first fish. That day, we focused on one of life's fundamental pleasures - a boy and his dad going fishing. The excitement of catching the fish was quickly trumped by the terror of the fish flipping around on the line which almost led to Ethan falling into the pond. That was immediately followed by nearly unstoppable laughing and giggling by us both. Excitement - Fright - Laughing. What emotions!

    When you put together your online marketing initiatives, what sort of fundamental emotions will your visitors experience when they see and read your material? Getting search engine visibility is a wonderful thing but always remember that search engines are not reading your content, real people are. Real people with happy memories and sad memories, stressful memories and comforting memories. Learning how to engage these visitors with stories that touch their fundamental emotions is key to winning more customers and long term relationships.

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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 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  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 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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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