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Internet Design

5 Ways Your CMS Can Help Your On-page SEO

Posted 5:35 PM by

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

 

1. Create Search Engine Friendly URLs

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

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

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

3. Manage Alt Image Tags

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

4. Built In Blogging Software

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

5. Create Permanent Redirects

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

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

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4 Reasons You Need a Mobile Website

Posted 1:09 PM by

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

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

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

So why should your organization develop a mobile site? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Infographics: The Perfect Link Bait

Posted 1:59 PM by

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

Visualize the Data
Visualize the Data

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

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

1. Create an amazingly catchy headline

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

2. Don't try to cover too much information

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

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

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

4. Hire a professional

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

 

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

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Nine Beneficial Uses for Web Forms

Posted 12:00 AM by

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

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

  1. Contact Forms

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

  1. Surveys & Polls

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

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

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

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

  1. Event Registration Forms

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

  1. Promotions & Contest Registrations

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

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

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

  1. Request a Quote Forms

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

  1. Evaluation & Feedback Forms

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

  1. Request Help/Support Forms

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

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

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

Posted 6:52 PM by

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

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

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

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

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

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Energy Systems Network Chooses Marketpath CMS

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

  Energy Systems Network

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

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Church and School Website Solutions

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 10:59 AM by

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

1. On-Page SEO

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

2. Quality Content

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

3. Off-Page Factors

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

4. Design and Site Structure

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

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


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Your Website is Not drudgereport.com

Posted 7:30 PM by

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

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

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

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

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


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The Three Pillars of Website Marketing

Posted 12:05 PM by

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

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

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

Visibility:

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

Engagement

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

Conversions

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

 

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

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

 

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Essco Corporation Launches New Website

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

Personal Protective Equipment


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

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

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

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

Posted 8:00 PM by

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

Content is King

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

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

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

Calls to Action (are Queen?)

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

Measure & Measure Some More!

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

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

Don't Forget Business Processes

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

Keep it Simple (Ease of Use that is)

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


 

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Dumpster Diving for Quality Online News Articles

Posted 4:12 AM by

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

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

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

Example of the clutter on a typical news site

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

Posted 9:23 AM by

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

Increasing Conversion Rates

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

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

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

 
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Content Form and Function; A little back story

Posted 9:58 AM by

Louis Sullivan | Balancing Form and Function

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

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

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




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Marketpath Named 2011 Innovation of the Year Finalist

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

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

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

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The amazing capabilities of jQuery UI (Part 1)

Posted 9:10 AM by

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

Tabs

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

Marketpath Nexus' Project Details Page

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

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

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

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

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

Dialog

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

Marketpath Nexus' Project Details Dialog

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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Fusz Mazda Launches New Website

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

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

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

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


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Great Content is the Only Constant

Posted 6:15 AM by

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

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

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

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

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Four Easy Steps to Pull All Your Hair Out with Sharepoint

Posted 4:52 AM by

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

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

Here are their four easy steps:

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

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

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

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

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


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

Posted 7:00 PM by

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Mobilizing your Mobile Masses

Posted 6:08 PM by

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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


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The 5 Point Checklist of Selecting a CMS

Posted 5:08 PM by

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 6:41 PM by

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

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

A common scenario:

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

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

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




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Pros and Cons of Software as a Service Content Management Systems

Posted 9:07 AM by

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

Advantages of SaaS CMS:

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

Disadvantages of SaaS CMS

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

Posted 12:00 AM by

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    Playing Russian Roulette with Google

    Posted 10:54 AM by

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

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

    Buying Links

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    Pros and Cons of Open Source Content Management Systems

    Posted 6:14 PM by

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


    Advantages of Open Source Content Management Systems:

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

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

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


    Disadvantages of Open Source Content Management Systems:


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

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

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

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

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


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

    Posted by

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

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

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

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

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

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    A Little Knowledge Goes a Long Way

    Posted 3:02 PM by

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

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

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

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

    A couple things to think about...

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

    Posted by

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

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

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

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

    Posted 2:16 PM by

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

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

    Joint #1 - At Home


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

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

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

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

    Joint #2 - Great Clips

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

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

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

    Joint #3 - i.d.entity hair design

    http://idhairdesign.com/

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

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

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

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

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

    Insight Gained from Experiences

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

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

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

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    Visitors, Personalization and Engagement

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

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

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

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

    Posted by

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

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

    Download the full press release from Techpoint

    or

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

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    Don't use "Click Here" in your links

    Posted 7:35 AM by
    I've seen this since the beginning of the web and most knowledgable web designers and developers now know to avoid using "click here" in there links. We're approaching 20 years of the Web and most active users have been online at least 8-10 years. They all know that if you mouse over a word or image and see the mouse arrow change to a pointing finger then it is clickable (unless built by an incompetent web developer).

    Don't use 'click here' in your link textThe problem with "click here" is that it doesn't convey any meaning other than an imperative - which doesn't work. It doesn't tell visitors why they should click here. Here's an example:

         BAD:
         Click here to download our white paper on multi-vitamins.

         BETTER:
         Read our white paper on multi-vitamins to learn why they are right for you.

    In addition to the usability of the two versions, the first does nothing for search engine optimization. "Click here" doesn't give search engines a relevant topic about the page being linked to. "Multi-vitamins" definitely does.

    Here are a few more resources on this topic:

        W3C Tips: Don't use "click here" as link text
        Addicott Web: 4 Reasons to Avoid Using 'Click Here' in Link Text
        Dawudmiracle.com: Using "Click Here" is Probably Hurting Your Site

    The moral of this blog post is: don't use "click here" when making links. It won't improve your visitor conversions or search engine optimization and all your friends will probably laugh at you.

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    Marketpath Named #1 Content Management Solution

    Posted by

    Marketpath is honored to be named the #1 Web Content Management Solution in the industry by BestWebDesignAgencies.com.  Earlier this month BestWebDesignAgencies.com selected Marketpath as their top CMS, based on an extensive evaluation of numerous applicants that included vendor reviews and interviews with vendor clients.

                  Best Web Content Management                                             Web Design Winner

    BestWebDesignAgencies.com is an independent authority that categorizes and ranks web design and development companies based on their specialties and expertise in various categories including design, deveopment, content management, branding, strategy, etc.

    To view the official announcement from BestWebDesignAgencies, click below.

     BestWebDesignAgencies.com Names Marketpath as the #1 CMS

     

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    New Blog!

    Posted 9:42 PM by
    Sometimes you just need to put an old dog down. Check out my new blog on Technology Leadership


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    Getting started.... again

    Posted 11:19 AM by

    I never liked the name of my other blog - Practical Internet Marketing Strategies. I get sleepy just reading it. I love all things technology and I truly enjoy leading my team. So here we go - a new blog about my strokes of genius, my screw-ups, my company, technology in general, and more. I'm leaving the mix of topics fairly open. My goal, at the very least, is to provide you with some useful (and sometimes entertaining) information.

    In the last nine and a half years of Marketpath there have been so many ups and downs and celebrations and scares that I could probably write a book - although I'm not sure I have the ability to focus that long. Instead, I'll send you tidbits here and there. Please feel free to always share your thoughts.

    I'll leave you with a technology quote from Elbert Hubbard:

    “One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men.  No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man.”

              ~Elbert Hubbard, The Roycroft Dictionary and Book of Epigrams, 1923

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    Follow Marketpath on Twitter

    Posted by
    After having an inactive account for a little over a year, Marketpath has decided that it's time to join the ranks of active "tweeters" out there.  Follow @marketpathCMS for updates on Marketpath CMS, blog post alerts, and news from the Content Managment and Internet Marketing industry.

    Follow @MarketpathCMS


    Click the picture to get to our Twitter page!

    We look forward to connecting with you! 


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    Yellowbook

    Posted 4:01 AM by
    This past weekend was momentous. It was a fantastic father's day weekend with lakeside and pool side activities all weekend and we received the newest Yellowbook delivered right to our doorstep.

    Yellow pages usageOn our way out of the driveway I noticed a yellow bag on our front doorstep. I should have been conditioned to know immediately what it was but we don't have phone service with our local phone company so I was curious why we received one - maybe it was some cool father's day present my wife ordered. Nope, it was definiitely  phone books. And then I sighed. My new yellow pages went straight to the recycle bin and I shed a quick tear for the tree that died to print the book.

    Didn't they get my memo? I haven't used the phone book in years. And I'm guessing many others are ditching it as well. In my 20 minutes in the coffee shop this morning, I couldn't find any relevant data for phone book usage this year or even last. One report (from 2008) says that over 95% of homes have a Yellow pages directory and that 77% of US adults say they reference the yellow pages monthly. If by "adult" they mean individuals aged 65 and over then I might believe the numbers.

    But I understand. Yellow pages directories sell ad spaced based on distribution, not usage. The actual measurement of usage is some fancy concept left to custom phone numbers and that Internet thingy. Actual usage of the directory is no doubt dwindling, so I guess my question is when will distribution start dropping as well?

    In 2001, I paid $144 each month for a small 1inch by 2 inch ad in our local directory. I had to sign a year commitment and in that entire year I received one single phone call that originated from the phone book. And that guy was looking for an Internet service provider - not a web developer. Lesson learned.

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    Your Website is Like a Plant

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

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

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

    Perhaps the note to our customers should have said: Your website is like a plant. Feed it valuable, engaging content that uses strategic keywords and watch the number of visitors to your website grow.
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    Keeping up with the Joneses

    Posted 2:56 AM by

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    Asian American Alliance Announces Launch of New Website

    Posted by

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

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

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

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

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    Innovation That Matters!

    Posted 4:02 PM by

    Hiring a MilkshakeI attended the Techpoint Innovation Summit '09 this week and listened to a thought provoking speech by Harvard Business School Professor and bestselling author Clayton Christensen.  Professor Christensen, author of "The Innovator's Dilemma" and "The Innovators Solution" spoke on the topic of disruptive innovation and described a very interesting approach to thinking about product improvement and innovation.  You can view a portion of a speech in which the professor describes hiring a milkshake to do a job.

    As I listened to Professor Christensen talk about milkshakes, I got hungry and also starting thinking about Marketpath, the company I recently joined, and how innovative an organization it is.  Sitting there, I quickly came up with the following list of Marketpath innovations:

    InnovationAll of the innovations listed above, and many others from Marketpath, were designed to allow non-technical marketers to successfully and easily run their interactive marketing programs.  In the future, look for more innovations from Marketpath that matter to our customers, but disrupt our competition and industry. 

    Here's to innovation, disruption, and milkshakes!

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    Marketpath and DreamTrust team up to launch Harry Potter themed website

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

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

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    Website Marketing (part&nbsp;2 of 3) - Engagement

    Posted 7:19 PM by

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

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

    Content: Traditional Web Pages

     

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

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

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

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

    Content: Social Media

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

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

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

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

    Usability

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

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

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

    The Bottom Line

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

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

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    Website Marketing (part 1 of 3) - Visibility

    Posted 2:02 PM by

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    Marketpath Launches New Phi Sigma Kappa Website

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


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    A More Effective Website

    Posted 3:27 PM by

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

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

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    Cloud Marketing

    Posted 2:50 PM by

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    What color is your business?

    Posted 3:21 PM by

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

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

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

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

                

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

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    What the Font?

    Posted 3:53 PM by

    Maybe it’s my design background or the fact that I grew up in the back of a print shop but this is a sensitive subject for me. I was taught typographic conservatism by my grandfather who once told me that in print, you never use more than two typefaces. And if you use two, make sure they are in the same font family; e.g., sans-serif with sans-serif, serif with serif, etc. In most cases, this is no different for the web. There is a fine line between typographic variety and font clutter.

    In a recent update of Marketpath CMS, we implemented stylistic limitations for two reasons: 1) maintain design consistency and uniformity; 2) simplify formatting for our users. Like form and function, there is a balance between giving too many options and simplifying the process.

    Rant Sidebar: Every night before bed, I pray to the Gods of typography that the typeface 'Comic Sans' is wiped from the face of the planet.

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

    Posted 4:22 PM by

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

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

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

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

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    Too Much is Never Enough (or is it?)

    Posted 5:38 PM by

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

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

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

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

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    Whitespace can be your friend

    Posted 6:47 PM by

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

    Look at the difference between the following website screenshots:


    Figure 1


    Figure 2 

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

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

     

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    Left-Brain Marketing?

    Posted 8:05 PM by

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

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

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

     

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    Google Web Browser and What it Means for Marketing

    Posted 1:28 AM by

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    The Future of Viral Marketing

    Posted 6:35 PM by

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

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

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

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    InPrivateBlocking in Internet Explorer 8 - Few Worries

    Posted 1:52 PM by

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

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

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

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

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

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    Web Power Tools (I love power tools)

    Posted 6:28 PM by

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

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

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

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    Do you have what it takes to win marketing gold?

    Posted 4:49 PM by

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

    Marketing gold, silver, or bronze?

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

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

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    The Future - Not quite here yet.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;

    Posted 12:48 PM by

    Everyone's always talking about the future.  How is technology going to play into our lives?  I envision a world where we'll carry around a palm sized pal that has all the information we need.  For example, this past weekend my fiancée and I were attending a birthday party for my cousin at an uncomfortably crowded bar in downtown Chicago.  By 2 AM we had had enough so we decided to nix the original plan of staying with some friends and hit the road back towards Indiana and get a hotel.  We stopped in Merrillville and went to five hotels before finding one that was suitable.

    the iCMS of the now or the future?In the future, Planet Earth v2.0, I'll be able to grab my palm sized pal, type in "available hotel rooms in Merrillville" and have instant access to which hotel rooms are available, pricing, pictures, and maybe...just maybe... a smell feature (nobody likes a stinky hotel room). 

    Why are we still waiting?  APPS DEVELOPMENT!  The technology is already in place. (except for the smell feature - someone seriously needs to get on that)  We're waiting for its widespread implementation.  (I don't actually have the iphone yet)  It's so close.  It's so close I can taste it.  Maybe I should co-design these types of features into our content management system.  It couldn't hurt.  Actually these types of apps are probably under way as I sit here mindlessly waxing about the future.  Oh well I guess I'll have to be a little more patient.

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    Is Web Design Dead?

    Posted 4:22 PM by

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

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

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

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    There is a New Player in Search

    Posted 1:14 PM by

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

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

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

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    Webdesign 2.0 a myth?

    Posted 1:08 PM by

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

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

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

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    Does your Internet marketing have good legs?

    Posted 11:09 AM by

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

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

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

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

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    Need a Paradigm Shift?

    Posted 5:04 PM by

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

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

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

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    If You Build it They Will Come

    Posted 2:56 PM by

    Indy Web Content ManagementIn today's world we have phones that double as computers, cars that double as satelite receivers, and a new culture of users, young and old, who are becoming increasingly reliant on the web for their information.  The question for the marketing saavy becomes; how do I optimize my marketing plan to pursuade people to hear my message?  How do I set myself apart from the great abyss of multimedia content available? 

    The answer is relevance.  If you provide relevant content on your site, people will come.  People will most definitely come.  This leads to the inevitable question;  what is relevent content?  For me relevent content is content that describes the current state of your business or organization.  There are sites on the internet that I go to several times a day.  I might visit others only once in my lifetime. 

    The sites that keep me coming back are ones with a wealth of interesting and useful information that is updated regularly.  I am interested in returning to the site, because I know that I will consistently find new things that weren't there before.  I will obtain new answers to old questions.  The most heavily visited sites on the web have one thing in common.  They change constantly!

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    AJAX, Web 2.0, and SEO

    Posted 7:37 PM by

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

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

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

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

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

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    AJAX and Web 2.0

    Posted 3:41 AM by

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

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

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

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

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

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    My 2nd biggest pet peeve

    Posted 3:03 AM by

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

    practical internet marketing - faux balcony

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

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

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

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

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

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    Do you like stale bread?

    Posted 1:36 AM by

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

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

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

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

     

     

     

     

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    Packaged Content Management

    Posted 3:39 AM by

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

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

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

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

     

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    The Auto Win

    Posted 8:26 PM by

    In our office we have a game of football that involves a cup at each end of the office sitting on a table.  The object of the game is to knock the cup off the table with the football.  Whoever knocks the cup off 5 times first, wins.
     
    The fun part of this game is that we have a few rules that make it more challenging.  For example, the football has to hit the cup and knock it off to count as a point.  Therefore, you cannot hit the table really hard jarring the cup from its perch. 
     
    Another rule is that if the football lands on top of the table and stays their at rest, it is an automatic win.  Or if the football lands in the space between the table-top and the lower shelf, it is also an automatic win.
     
    Here's TJ, one of our account execs, with his second auto win.  TJ pretty much dominates the game and has the longest cumulative record holding the title belt.  He is the only one to have an auto win.

     TJ Furman with his second auto win

    There is a point to this blog entry.... auto wins.  How can I get more auto wins with my Internet marketing strategy?  How can I setup an Internet marketing process that automatically performs certain tasks for me and produces measurable results? 
     
    It all starts with your message.  What do you want your clients and prospects to know?  How do you want to communicate with them?  How often?  What will you say?  How will you segment your audience?  What activity do you want to track?  How do you want to respond to that activity?  What sort of results do you expect?
     
    Once you know answers to those questions, you can choose the delivery and tracking methods.  The tools are not nearly as important as setting your goals and defining realistic expectations.  Although, with a solid strategy and a strong, reliable toolset, you are setting yourself up for a few auto wins.

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    Red Door Means Debt-Free

    Posted 2:10 AM by

    Have you evear heard of people who paint their front door red when they pay off their mortgage?  Do you think this guy just paid off his car loan?

    Red door syndrome, don't boast in Internet Marketing

    This may be fine for your house.  You are proclaiming to the neighborhood your independence from the bank.  But don't catch yourself making the same proclamations for your business in your Internet marketing conversations. 
     
    I'm sure you're proud that you own your office building or have stayed debt-free for decades.  That can generate a wonderful sense of pride with you and your staff.  But keep it at that, inside company walls.  Don't waste your time telling prospects how well you've succeeded.  Instead, spend that precious energy engaging with their needs and showing the benefits and results of your product or service. 
     
    It's not about you.  It's all about them.

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    Internet Marketing Stagnation

    Posted 2:35 AM by

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

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

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    Harding Poorman Uses CMS

    Posted by

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

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

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    IU Natatorium Launches Reg. App

    Posted by

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

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

    View Swim Programs and Camps

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    Sysco Chooses Marketpath CMS

    Posted by

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

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

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

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

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    Dominion Group Website

    Posted by

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

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

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

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    Alway Development Corp Website

    Posted by

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

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

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

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    Introducing Marketpath CMS

    Posted by

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

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

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

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

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

    Click here for more information.....

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