Indianapolis Web Content Management

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Website Marketing (part 2 of 3) - Engagement

Posted 7:19 PM by

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

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

Content: Traditional Web Pages

 

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

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

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

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

Content: Social Media

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

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

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

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

Usability

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

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

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

The Bottom Line

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

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

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Website Marketing (part 1 of 3) - Visibility

Posted 2:02 PM by

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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WSJ Article - "Gmail Glitch Shows Pitfalls" - Seriously?

Posted 1:04 AM by

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

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

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

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

Let me translate this into financial terms:

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

 

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

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

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

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I love you... sort of

Posted 3:35 PM by

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

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

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

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

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Reduce marketing expenses with a web content management system

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

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

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

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