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We have several churches as customers. They all have one thing in common: tons of information to communicate to their congregations. Relying on a member of the church to make these changes leads to bottlenecks, delays, and headaches. Relying on a paid website developer leads to wasted cash and creates a disincentive for making much needed updates.
This is where a web content management system for churches can make a big difference. First of all, you don't have to be a website developer to use the system. Many of our church users are non-technical and not terribly computer saavy. This is not a knock against them, they just aren't as comfortable with computers as some of our other users. With Marketpath CMS they don't have to be. The beautiful thing about our web content management system is that it is extremely easy to use.
Don't let that fool you into thinking that it is basic, though. Marketpath CMS is far from basic. It is a very powerful on-demand platform that allows an incredible level of interaction, not just for church users but also for other website developers who want to make it do more.
Dont' let your church fall into the bottleneck trap of using outside developers who charge an hour for every change regardless of size. And if one of your members currently makes changes for you, put in a web content management system and let them save a great deal of time as well as enabling other members of your staff to make changes too!
A 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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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?
If you've read any of Michael Gerber's books you'll know that one of his paradigms is to work on your business, not in your business. This simple statement escapes most programmers who one day stumble upon a great idea and believe they can build it. And build it they do with great fervor! They stay up late, night after night, avoid going out with friends and family, and dedicate a silly number of hours to their hot new endeavor.
And that's how it continues, week after week, month after month, until the programmer wakes up and realizes they are never going to actually sell anything. Not because they can't or because they don't want to but because they are stuck in an increasingly addictive cycle of innovation. In their highly technical mind, the product is never quite ready. "If I add this feature" they say, "then it will be perfect." And sadly, just one failed sales attempt triggers a longer continuation of this cycle. Programmers aren't built to be salespeople by default. Programmers are built to solve technical problems and leap over insurmountable obstacles in software.
If you read the overview of this blog you may have made the connection that I am included in this group. I'm a programmer and I've been building my business for the last 10 years while I lived what I described above. In 2002 I started building a SaaS e-commerce platform for small businesses named NetEmporium. This stole away approximately two years of my life. I worked diligently every night and day to build it. In the end, I sold it to four companies and made a whopping $5,000 before scrapping it altogether. Hardly worth the effort.
Around that same time I built a SaaS collaboration tool that included email, calendaring, contacts, tasks, and more. This was one of the first SaaS collaboration tools available (besides Outlook for the Web) but again, I failed to sell it and only saw a return of a few thousand dollars. Shortly after that I built a SaaS web content management tool named WebTools. This is the grandfather of our current web content management system, Marketpath CMS. I made a few thousand off of that one too.
Needless to say, I learned this lesson slowly, always thinking I could build a great product and it would sell like hot cakes! Truth is, I did build a great product - some features of NetEmporium have yet to make their way into Marketpath StoreFront, our current e-commerce module for Marketpath CMS. But my problem wasn't building software it was selling it.
One of our salesmen has mentioned multiple times that he wished he could code (develop software) because he wants to help out with our never ending list of feature additions and bug fixes. Each time I've told him it's a curse and to stay away. The reason is simple - software will always have new feature requests and bugs but unless we have people that sell and market it well, there will be no reason to develop those features and fix those bugs.
So, for those of you programmers dying to know how to be successful developing and selling a software product, take the following points to heart. They are simple, straightforward, and lack fanfare - which is what you need before you kill off a couple of your best years.
The biggest thing to keep in mind, as a programmer and new entrepreneur, is that you cannot code your way into a profitable business. There are flukes to this rule, for sure. But 999 times out of 1,000 it holds true.
For the last ten years I've received my GMBK MBA, that is, the "Getting My Butt Kicked" MBA. I've learned the hard way many, many times. This is not the easiest path, though. When resources are stretched, I still sometimes jump in and do a little development. This is partly for my own enjoyment because every now and then, it's nice to hole myself up and escape for a bit. But I realize this adds almost zero value to the success and growth of my company. So I try to limit it as much as possible.
As you dive into your new venture, your million dollar idea, keep in mind these simple tactics. You'll thank yourself later.
A 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.
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.
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.
Finding 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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
As an individual running the sales and marketing department for a small business, I am always looking for cost effective ways to enhance my knowledge and ability to market, while keeping costs down. The great thing about being in business today is that there are lots of free online marketing tools and resources that can both educate and provide usefulness to an online marketer.
Below are my first five (5) free tools that any small business marketer should be aware of and possibly using regularly in their day to day marketing. Next month I'll list of another group of free, useful tools for your business.
I'll start with a simple, but very useful tool that has been around a long time- Google Alerts. Google Alerts allows you to sign up for free email updates on the latest (and relevant) Google results for whatever keyword/topic (business, product, technology, individual, etc.) you wish to follow. Then, when your keyword shows up in Google, you get an email with the new information sent to you.
This is an amazingly easy and valuable tool that allows you to monitor the web for new news, PR, website updates, and more. I use it for tracking information on my own company, competitors, customers, industry trends, research and general topics that I what to stay on top of. Below is an example of an alert I received for "Marketpath," letting me know that our press release had been picked up and posted on an industry technology website.
You can also be creative and use Google Alerts as a marketing tool, to drive traffic to your own website. Think about it- it makes sense. Every time you post content on your website with a certain keyword (phrase), Google will send an automated alert to everyone who subscribed to Google Alerts for that keyword. The individual subscribed to the alert, because the keyword is relevant to them. If your content (post, PR, etc.) is also relevant for the keyword, Google Alerts will connect your site to that highly pertinent reader of your content. Check out this article for more information.
This is a great tool that provides lots of useful information about any website or web page, in regards to how the site or specific page is optimized for search (SEO). Just type in your company's URL or the URL of a competitor or related industry site, and you'll get good data about how that site is viewed by Google and other search engines. Information includes:
If you are a novice to all things SEO, the information on this site will help you learn. If you already have some basic SEO and key word experience, RANKS.NL will provide insight and ideas into how best to optimize your site for search and how other sites (competitors, industry sites) are hoping to compete for different keywords.
One of the great thing about interactive marketing and the web is that it allows markers to more easily measure their marketing activities and results. Yet, even in 2011, many small businesses don't pay attention to what is happening on their website. With Google Analytics, tracking your website marketing is both free and easy.
In simple terms, web analytics will let you know who has visited your site, what they did when they were there, and where they came from. More importantly, it will tell you how your prospects found you (which sites and key words), what content they value, and whether you converted them to leads or sales once they got to your site. By properly utilizing Google or other analytics tools, you'll be able to understand both your visitors and which initiatives are impacting them. Combine that knowledge with a web content management system that allows for quick and easy changes to your site, and you'll be on your way to improving your marketing bottom line.
Google Analytics isn't quite as simple as some of the other tools on this list (you'll need the analytics code put on each page of your site), but it is probably the MVT (most valuable tool) of free online tools. Google also provides great resources to quickly get you up to speed. For starters, try the Google Analytics product tour.
If your business ever produces press releases and utilizes them to generate website traffic or as part of your search optimization (SEO) strategy, then you should take a look at Hubspot's free tool. PressReleaseGrader evaluates your press releases and provides you with a marketing effectiveness score for that release. It also provides details as to which elements your release contains or is missing that might impact its effectiveness, including links, content, and key words.
If you want people (customers, prospects, vendors) to find your business, based on where it is located, then your business should be listed on Google Places. If you are not currently listed then you may already be at a competitive disadvantage. Think about this:
Those are significant numbers you could be missing out on, as Google and other search engines emphasize local search. Listing your business won't guarantee any success, but can provide the following benefits:
Setting up your business on Google Places will take some time, but it is something every local business should do. I'd also suggest looking at similar local listing such as Bing Local and Yahoo Local, as they should provide similar benefits.
There you have it- the first listing of my favorite free marketing tools. Next month, I'll write about my second group of free tools. Until then, can you list your favorite free marketing tools?
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.
So 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.
When we launched generation 3 of Marketpath CMS in 2007 we didn't have a huge number of customers making simultaneous updates to their websites. As time went on and our user base continued to grow rapidly we ran into problems. The publishing mechanism for our web content management system was built as a single-threaded publishing service. This means only one page (or other asset) could be published at one time - a bottleneck. This was fine 98% of the time. And it was fine as long as users were only publishing one item at a time. The problem came about when we had multiple users (usually developers) republishing entire sites. This caused a delay for anyone publishing and began to happen more and more frequently.
The diagram below shows a single-threaded publishing model. There are four users and three sites. User 1 publishes three files. Users 2 and 3 publish one file each. User 4 publishes 2 files. Users 1 and 2 publish to separate sites. Users 3 and 4 publish to the same site. All four users and all seven pages form a line and then get published one at a time. Imagine a site with hundreds of pages gets publishes first. With a single-threaded publishing agent, everybody must wait at the back of the line until all those pages have been sent.
Now, take a look at the diagram below. This is a multithreaded publishing model. Each user gets their own thread. Think of a thread as a line or queue. If we have four queues instead of just one, publishing is much quicker. The user who publishes an entire site of pages simply has to wait for those pages to complete before anything else from their queue will be published. But she can keep adding items to the queue without affecting other users. Those other users just publishing one page at a time don't wait for the first user's site to be published. They only have their own pages in their own queue.
This is one of the many challenges of a rapidly growing user base. There are technical challenges with software. This post touches on both scalability and availability. Some others are load balancing, load testing, usability, and security. Then there are operational challenges, such as sales, support, bililng, etc. We have a great team here at Marketpath and one of the basic rules of thumb for measuring great employees is how well they perform under stress (i.e. rapid growth) but also how well they perform when the work is predictable. Luckily, we don't have too much of that! We like to keep it interesting here.
Since we're very near the month of May and the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 I'll leave you with one of my favorite quotes:
- Mario Andretti
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.
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.
As 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.
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?
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.
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!
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!
Every few years marketers coin a new phrase that starts to stick. The next thing you know you're throwing the phrase around like an old dodgeball (the old kind that was made of hard rubber and really hurt when it smacked you in the face). If you know the phrase, it doesn't land hard, but if you don't, you look a little silly nodding your head like you understand while your brain tries to decode it. Today's phrase is "Web Engagement Management."
In a nutshell, if web content management was Barry Bonds before "supplements," web engagement management is Barry Bonds after. Web engagement management (WEM) has web content management at its core but extends on that core by adding measurement and personalization. It also ties in social media, lead generation, and testing best practices. CMS Wire has a nice article about it: The 5 Pillars of Web Engagement Management. What does this all mean? It means your job as a marketer is about to get harder and more confusing... at first, anyway.
WEM is about observiing, measuring, and responding to your website visitors' behaviors. It is about knowing them and targeting content that is highly relevant and gets them to convert more often. But that's fairly standard stuff when it comes to website marketing. We've been doing that a long time, so what's different? WEM, as a tool, brings together previously disparate technologies to capture and manage the distribution of leads, personalizes the visitor experience by pulling external profile data, and manages the new two-way, three-way, or X-way conversations from outside social channels (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc).
This is where website marketing has always been difficult. Plugging into external systems is expensive, difficult, and often takes a great deal of time to build. In addition, having the broad vision and understanding of how all these puzzle pieces fit together is not typically in the standard marketer's toolbox. The great direct marketing folks (whether snail mail or email) get it and don't have much trouble making these connections. Those who have more focused or single channel roles, though, will have a harder time seeing this large marketing maze in their minds. So, there is a lot of learning to do.
The bad news is that web content management toolsets who claim to be evolving into web engagement management don't make it easy... yet. There are tools available that offer these types of integrations but they are typicallly reserved for the big guys with deep pockets and they are still separate tools. If you are one of these big guys, then good for you. For the rest of us, we'll probably just need to wait a bit longer until the tools have caught up with the need or jump in, get your feet wet, and start learning now.
The goal to all web content management software companies, inclluding Marketpath, is to build web engagement management into the core of their systems and to simplify the difficulties of execution. It willl take a few years before all the kinks are worked out and the systems operate in a standard simplistic fashion. But if you wait until then, you will very likely be leaving money on the table. Get started now and work with the tools available. Your early adoption now will mean experience and better decision making later when all the other marketers are just getting started.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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).
One of the great advantages of using a web content management system is the ability to create custom landing pages for webinars, seminars, tradeshows, or other events. You probably have several of these each year and send out information to your constituents. Wouldn't it be nice to quickly create a custom landing page for each event containing all the agenda details and registration instructions? With Marketpath CMS you can. Here's how:
So, there you have it. 8 simple steps to create an event-specific landing page and customized URL within Marketpath CMS. And of course, if you have any trouble, just pick up the phone. We're here to help!
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.
Over 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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
The 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.
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.
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
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.
I 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:
All 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!
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."
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:
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!
The article "Gmail Glitch Shows Pitfalls" was on the Wall Street Journal's Evening Wrap email. Under the headline, it had "Failure Spurs Concern Over Reliability of Online Software." To sum it up, it tries to pitch online software (or Saas - software-as-a-service) as unreliable because of occasional temporary outages. In my mind, I can hear all the traditional IT folks saying "See? I told you so!"
I used to be a traditional IT guy at a University (a very cutting edge University at that). At one time I was responsible for a handful of enterprise applications, the client applications on individual user desktops, the hardware running both enterprise and client software, and the network that let them all talk. That's a big responsibility and one I didn't take lightly. I'll admit, though, I had the "I need to touch it and feel it" mentality - which basically means I wanted the software to be installed on my network and on my servers and desktops.
Software-as-a-service was just starting to come into use at the enterprise level but not for the apps I supported, so I didn't have a choice. But now, many vendors are offering their software over the web, such as, customer relationship management, web content management, accounting, and many more. The benefits are huge:
Let me translate this into financial terms:
Now, software-as-a-service does not fit every business. I know that. But before you drop $100,000, or $10,000 for that matter, you should put some research into a SaaS alernative. Your up-front and long term cost savings might be huge compared to all the costs of installed software.
As for the Wall Street Journal article that started me on this little rant - every software has its down day. It's unfortunate, yet it happens. But when your application becomes unavailable, would you rather have Google working non-stop to get it back up or your already overworked IT guy who has a chip on his shoulder and has one foot out the door?
To the Wall Street Journal - inferring software-as-a-service is less reliable than its installed software counterpart is like saying Michael Phelps is more likely to smoke weed than Cheech and Chong. Everybody has their down-and-out moments but come on! Seriously?
I just read a blog post on CMSwire that outlined a few of the trends that are going to really drive content management in 2009. Two of these three trends were about Web 2.0 integration and e-commerce integration and how each piece will become an extremely important part of each and every website over the next year. Almost every content management system out there today can help someone effectively manage landing pages, text, pictures, and menu structure (to name a few things), but not every one can help with the two things mentioned above.
Having your website, blog, and shopping cart all managed by the same system helps keep things organized and streamlined. Managing products, content, blog posts and comments all from the same interface can help you and your staff save time and money. It is all possible with the right, easy CMS. Be ahead of the curve in 2009, be a trend setter. Make your website work for you.
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.
Both online and offline marketing (such as email, blogging, direct mail, ads, etc) should all contain some sort of action item. In most cases, the action item will direct people to a website or landing page where they can learn more about a particular product, service, or promotion. This is very common practice and many of those channels can be utilized affordably. But this is where marketers often fail (or get hosed for that matter).
Take a short time to look at the diagram below. Each spoke represents some sort of marketing channel, or in my terms, a Website Chauffeur. These mechanisms capture the attention of their viewers and then chauffeur them to the website where the next step in the selling process begins.
Online chauffeurs are shown in blue and offline chauffeurs are shown in orange.
Website Chauffeurs are great at capturing attention and bringing individuals to the next step at the center of the spokes - the website (or the hub). But the problem is Website Chauffeurs don't convert visitors into customers. That is the job of your website. Wherever visitors land within your website your message should build value before attempting to make a sale.
This is why it is so important to have a simple and powerful Web content management system to help you adjust your message. Chances are you will not get that message quite right the first time, or the second time, or the third, fourth, fifth, or sixth time. Hopefully, you get the point. Having a tool that doesn't punish you for making changes is a necessity, unless you like to send cash to a developer at $100 per hour. A Web content management system gives you the capability to adjust the message yourself and save enormous amounts of time and money.
Often times I sit with my son and daughter and find educational websites, including videos on YouTube (usually of giraffes, zebras, elephants, etc). Today, my son asked to see talking couches. He's four. So, I looked for videos of talking couches and I was not surprised to find the first result below. My son, on the other hand, was extremely excited to see a real live talking couch!
This goes to show one thing. If you are looking for something specific you can probably find it on the web. And if you sell talking couches I hope that you are shown on the first page of search results. How do you do that? By following search engine optimization techniques and updating your content frequently. Using a web content management system that lets you do both is a great start.
I had an awesome meeting today with Tony Scelzo, the founder of Rainmakers, in which he spoke about frequency and universe. Basically your universe is composed of suspects, prospects, and influencers. Frequency is the number of contacts you have with these people each week, month, year, or whatever. This model is consistent with my current marketing philosophy. Frequency and follow-up are extremely important along with the number of people who carry your message.
I've seen so many models and analogies for good marketing, that it blows my mind. Mostly they all mean the same thing. You do research to determine a good market segment. You hit that segment with as many different forms of contact as you can think of. You measure what worked and what didn't. You do more of what worked and less of what didn't. You do this until you own your market. It sound so simple that it's almost crazy that we still talk about it so much!
It's ideas such as this that make a web content management system make so much sense. A CMS with the right features allows you to run several different campaigns at once. For example, Marketpath CMS allows users to search optimize their site (and keep it optimized), create and measure landing pages, create a corporate blogging program, run a viral campaign, and coordinate their site with email marketing. How much more power could you ask for?
Today, I am at the blogINDIANA conference learning about different blogging topics and also promoting our product, Marketpath CMS. It's interesting, even now, how many home-grown web content management systems there are. We knew this when we began building our product. We knew that home-grown CMS's would be our largest competitors.
One benefit of the home-grown CMS is that the relationship to the developer, the company who built it, is very personal. It has tremendous value because the customer is working with a vendor they trust.
The disadvantages of the home-grown CMS are in system maturity, features and benefits. Every home-grown CMS I've seen is immature. It lacks the full-scale development and quality assurance required to deliver a quality product from which end users derive their return on investment. Additionally, most larger changes (like adding a new page) require intervention from the original developer. Keep your fingers crossed they are not on vacation or too busy on another large project to assist for another 6 weeks. Believe it or not, that happens a lot.
What we are recommending is that instead of trying to build a home-grown application that is limited in functionality, become a reseller of a mature web content management system. We have a program in place that allows resellers to make a nice return on every new customer. And the return is recurring every year. They get the benefit of a mature content management system that is always growing in features and benefits, and offers the expertise of the vendor behind it. Do it right, go with a pro.
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.
In 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!
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 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.
My wife has a 10 year old car that is used soley to get to and from work. It runs well, it still looks nice, and it gets great gas mileage. The only negative factor is that is burns through a quart of oil each month. Let a few months go by and I begin hearing the knocking sound of unlubed lifters in the engine. At that point, it desperately needs oil.
Luckily, the engine did not lock up. Isn't it nice, though, that our cars tell us when they need oil by flashing the oil light? Unfortunately, your website doesn't have a warning light like this to tell you when it needs some maintenance.
Like a car, you must keep you website well oiled so it runs smoothly. And by "running smoothly" I mean your website is engaging visitors so they either buy or move to the next step in the buying process.
Keeping your website oiled takes continuous effort. You must make relevant updates frequently. You must provide quality content to engage your visitors and keep them coming back. And you must constantly measure the results.
To do this in a cost effective manner you need a proven web content management system. A good web content management system will provide tools to update your website without the need to call in a programmer. A good web content management system will also provide you measurement tools to help you guage your website's effect on your bottom line.
When you first launched your website, you may have won new visitors by performing some basic on-site search engine optimization and you may have interested a few readers to complete a call to action. But at some point, you hit a plateau where new visitor counts and conversions never rose above a certain threshold. This is what I call "flatline marketing."
At the beginning, you had so much energy, excitement and passion for the new website launch. You committed to always improving the site and figuring out how to maximize its return. But that excitement and passion quickly waned when day-to-day fires and floods crept back into the spotlight. The website was left stranded without a captain, without a champion, without a chance - flatlined.
This is where content is king. Without content, your visitors have little to engage with and little reason to return. Content's purpose is to attract readers, viewers, or listeners and ultimately get them to convert into customers, donors, members, etc. Here are four questions to ask yourself when planning content creation for your website.
Why will people want to digest what you write? Is it because you are the foremost expert on the subject? Is it because you are witty? Is it because you are providing an answer to their questions or solving a particular set of problems? The important thing is to always remember who you're writing for.
You are asking for people to give you a slice of their extremely valuable time and attention. Make sure you are targeting the right people and make sure what you are providing benefits your readers.
Content can take the form of blog posts, white papers, case studies, videos, podcasts, infographics, articles in industry publications, and more. Will you stick to one or use more than one? You might try them all and see which ones give you the best engagement scores.
How often will you generate content? Stick to a schedule you can keep and don't overpromise. Sending out a weekly newsletter might be too much but sending a monthly or quarterly newsletter might be more achievable. Because blogs are often conversational in their tone, writing a new post each week should be considered. Videos are expensive and time consuming but generally have higher engagement than other forms of content.
Whatever plans you put in place, put a captain at the helm. You need someone to stick to a schedule and rally the troops. Without a captain, your efforts will surely flatline.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
I 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.
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:
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
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.
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.
Fusz 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.
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.
I 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Marketpath is proud to announce our new video management solution, which makes adding a video to your website just as easy as it has always been to add landing pages, images and image galleries using Marketpath CMS.
Our new partnership, with Cantaloupe.tv, integrates their VideoHereTM video management software into Marketpath's Content Management System to provide users a more engaging experience. The integration offers Marketpath customers the ability to seamlessly utilize video in their web pages, providing highly relevant and engaging content. And studies show that 65% of viewers watch online video to completion, a number significantly higher than for text. This demonstrates how video is a great way to reach online audiences and to keep visitors glued your website and message longer.
Marketpath's video management enables you to grow your site's video presence, while also enhancing your SEO efforts and social media footprint. VideoHereTM includes a feature that tags videos for search engines, and the video player includes features which allow the viewer to easily share videos with their network and post to social media outlets.
Using VideoHereTM is also extremely easy, allowing you to point-and-click to upload, customize, embed, and track videos in your web pages. Directly from your Marketpath account, you can easily manage a video library, add video to web pages, and track video metrics, including impressions, clicks, views, drop-offs, view times, and viral sharing.
For more information on this new Marketpath offering, visit http://www.marketpath.com.
Basic website marketing consists of three core parts: visibility, engagement, and conversion.
Today's topic is conversion. Once you get people visiting your site and engaged in your content, your job is to get them to convert. But before we dive in let's define the term conversion as it applies to your website.
A conversion is an action a visitor takes within your website that leads to them give you information or money. The action could be:
The desired minimum outcome of any conversion is grabbing some sort of information from your visitor - a name, email, phone number, geographical area, etc - preferrably information you can use to contact them. The best outcome is your visitors making a purchase, becoming a member, volunteering their time, or some other result that benefits your organization.You should start with a goal. If the goal is not for the user to purchase something then what information do you want to collect from them? Keep in mind that people shy away from giving personal information so you should collect the absolute minimum you need to satisfy your goal. You cannot expect people to freely provide their information.
K.I.S.S. - this is a phrase from my 11th grade geometry teacher. Not only a very smart woman, she was quite capable of breaking down complex concepts into simple illustrations or equations. Keeping it simple means to make your calls to action simple and obvious. Take this start now button, for example. This would fit very easily on a page that discusses some type of maintenance product or program, such as a lawn care treatment program.
Again, I recommend reading Robert Bly's bookThe Copywriter's Handbook - A Step By Step Guide To Writing Copy That Sells. Bly provides a great section on writing headlines and captivating taglines. You could easily apply this to calll to action buttons or links.
Once you have crafted your conversion goals, what you want to get from your visitors, then you'd better be sure to measure the results. For those visitors that convert, where did they come from, what other pages did they look at on your site, and how long were they on the site before they converted? Also check out the bounce rate or the drop off pages (i.e. where are visitors leaving your site). Those areas should lead you to improvements that keep visitors from abandonment.
My most important bit of advice on measurement is to not over analyze the results - at first. If you get 500 visitors each month and two leads, then it probably isn't worth the effort to create a bunch of reports detailing every aspect of their journey. But, if you have 50,000 visitors a month who, on average, visit up to three pages on your site and you only get two conversions, then definitely over analyze what's going on.
Paralysis by analysis is just a matter of perspective.
If you have the resources, put together a weekly or monthly report that ties revenue to your website conversions. This may not be easy if you're a small business but if you are able to do this, then you'll have a clearer idea where you should spend your marketing dollars. Also, if you can tie revenue directly to leads originating from the website who then became customers, you will have great ammunition convincing the powers that be to spend more money.
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.
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.
Social media provides many platforms for less formal communications with customers and prospects. Social media, by nature, is .... well ... social. It is a conversation between two or more people. One of the most cost effective tools you can add to your communications and marketing arsenal is a blog. Blogs provide a place for visitors to return again and again as long as you provide content worthy of their return.
Blogs can be used to drive traffic to your website with search optimized keywords and they can be used to build expertise in a specific industry. They can also be used to provide greater visibility into the happenings of your organization. Again, your goals need to be set before starting a blog but once you have one or more in place, have at it! Let your visitors leave comments and be sure to respond to those comments. This creates a two way dialog.
Other social media tools you can use are those that already have mass appeal, such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. I won't go into any detail how to use these tools but they can provide another mechanism for reaching out and engaging customers and prospects. I would highly recommend reading groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff of Forrester Research. This will give you a lot of insight into how social media can work for you and in what circumstances you may want to use it.
Social media is simply another way for you to connect to others. It can provide a richer, more meaningful experience for everyone if it is used properly.
When a visitor lands on your page, the paths they can take should be very clear and intuitive. If a visitor has to work too hard to find what they're looking for, they will most likely leave. Make it easy. People find things when a website has a familiar navigational structure broken down into sensible chunks.
One of my favorite websites is all about bad websites - Web Pages That Suck. Here's their page on web pages with bad navigation. If you can avoid their list you might be safe.
Adam Brand, VP Creative and Client Services for Marketpath, maintains a blog called Great Website Content: Balancing Form and Function. Adam provides a lot of insight into what makes a great website. Although he doesn't post often, his entries are still worthy of a read.
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.
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!"
Here is something to think about when trying to write more engaging webiste copy - tell a story.
It's really that simple. Why does your website have to be a stuffy replication of your brochure? It doesn't! Tell a story and you will not only draw the attention of your new visitors, you may also better engage existing customers who are looking for a new way to use your product or service.
Stories, especially those that touch the heart or tickle the funny bone, will draw attention because people naturally enjoy stories.
That reminds me, this one time... at band camp....
Just kidding, I've never been to band camp but I have been to computer camp. I think it was 1985 and computers only did one thing well back then - Oregon Trail.
We have integrated Google Analytics right into Marketpath CMS. You can now learn more about where your visitors come from and how they interact with your site. You'll get the information you need to write better ads, strengthen your marketing initiatives, and create higher-converting websites. Learn more about the benefits directly from Google.
Google Analytics replaces the default 'Visitor Tracking' panel within Marketpath CMS and opens up in its own tab. If you're interested in knowing what your website is doing, call us today at 800-657-7786. Integration of Google Analytics is included with any Marketpath CMS account.
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.
Content 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.
'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.
This 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.
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.
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.
I 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.
I met with Scott Abel this past Tuesday and we briefly spoke about semantic search. I'll admit, I've read about semantic search in the past but I wasn't very familiar with it. So I did a little more research.
Semantic search is based on objects instead of just keywords, as traditional search is today. Today's search engines (Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc) find websites that contain the keywords you entered. Now, if I typed in "horn" I will get many different results. I will get results for french horns, Cape Horn, Horn's Gaslight Bar & Restaurant on Mackinac Island, Hansen & Horn, and many other results. But I will have to sort through all of those results to find what I'm really looking for, my grade school gym teacher "Mr. Horn."
Semantic search would allow me to sort results by the type of object instead of just wether the pages included my keywords. When I type "horn" I could also include "person." So my query might be "person horn." A good semantic web search engine would also recognize that many different object types exist for the word horn and present those to me so I could easily narrow my selection.
We constantly hype about good keyword placement and strong search engine optimization but semantic web presents a different twist in search that could yield much more relevant results and get us to the information we want faster. Semantic search has a long way to go before being fully adopted but it is something to keep your eye on.
This 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.
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!'
I 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.
What stands in the way of you updating your website more frequently? (Lack of) technology, that's what! Machines should be doing the busy work, not you. You should be able to freely express your ideas and opinions using tools that make the job easy. So what are you going to do about it?
Content management used to be in the hands of only the programmers (and the bosses who tell them what to do), but given the right tools for the job, anyone can contribute relevant content to their company's website. With Marketpath CMS, you can update your site as fast as you can
Skills can vary wildly between human beings. Some can be bad at both spelling and haircuts yet be great at growing a killer moustache and wearing a bandana. Some are outstanding at writing code and somehow bad at bowhunting. Should a lack of programming skills keep you from being able to update your company's website? No! You should put the power back in your hands and make things easy with Marketpath CMS.
Having said that... Just because anyone can manage content doesn't mean you should let everyone and their brothers have control of your content. You still need to make sure your content management is in competent hands. Maybe we'll talk about that problem, and Marketpath's solution to it, next time.
BTW, yes... the Cardinals are my favorite team, and I realize he is wearing a Cardinals shirt. Some of us redbird fans can actually spell... Its just a coincidence, I ashure you.
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.
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:
In the end, serious Internet marketers will choose a solution that frees them up for valuable Internet marketing and not software configuration.
4/8/2008 - Young Professionals of Central Indiana has chosen Marketpath CMS as their choice for getting the most out of their website.
YPCI's new website is intended to be a tool for both members and YPCI to continue to develop lasting connections in the Central Indiana business community.
Paid members of YPCI will have access to additional features that are not available to non-members, including the ability to edit your profile (including a picture and contact information if you so desire) and to track both upcoming and past YPCI events. Paid members will also have access to a member directory that includes information about the other members of YPCI (only that which members opt to have shown).
The website also has greater functionality for the Board of YPCI and will allow them to better plan and execute events, as well as collecting information regarding those members who would like to become even more involved in YPCI planning and leadership.
For more information on YPCI, check out http://www.ypci.net/.
Visit http://www.dominiongroup.net to learn more about Dominion Group.
Visit http://www.alwaydevelopment.com to learn more about Alway Development Corporation.