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The amount of social networking is immense and ever growing. To market your business it seems more and more social sites must be created and managed. How is it determined which are necessary? With Facebook, Linkedin, and Google+, Instagram does not seem to be a front runner. Yet, Instagram has grown and quickly. With 200 million active users monthly, Instagram has more user engagement than Facebook or Twitter. With this social network’s widespread popularity and the growth of visual marketing, every small business and not-for-profit needs to consider Instagram for their social marketing plan. Instagram opens a marketing door full of opportunities not offered by other social networks.
Why your small business should use Instagram:
Visual Marketing- Images instantly draw viewers in and gain their attention on any social network. Solely dedicated to images, Instagram drives constant intrigue of a user. With popping images, easy creativity, and filters Instagram is an easy and unique way to showcase your products and services.
Personality and Trust- One of the top reasons to use Instagram is the personality it gives your company. Connection on a social network creates familiarity with users. Small businesses stand out because of the relations they can provide to customers. All social media precipitates better customer relations; however, Instagram has an edge. Posting personal and behind-the-scenes photos and interacting with those who follow and comment on your account can help customers get to know your business as the people in it and the work they do. Humanizing your company establishes trust with viewers, making them more likely to work or keep working with you.
Credibility- Digital credibility is critical for your online success and Instagram is a great way to establish credibility in your industry. Share your vast knowledge of your field on Instagram through tips, fun facts, or the excellence of your work. As an interior decorating company, a great way to show your credibility would be to post pictures of a spacious living room. Along with your photo, your caption can share tips on how to best place furniture to make one's room look bigger. Whatever your business, Instagram can be a great way to share your expertise.
Traffic to your Website- Images you post on Instagram will leave viewers wanting to know more about your work. A link to your site on your profile and references to specific pages on your site in photo captions will bring more traffic to your website! Additionally, relevant links to your site from Instagram and improved social rankings will help to improve your site’s search rankings (SEO) via Google, Bing and Yahoo.
Determining what social media your business should use can be difficult and tedious when they all seem to provide similar benefits. Along with the networking and broadcasting that all social networks provide, Instagram gives your small business personality, builds trust, displays your products/services, establishes credibility, and draws attention to your business and traffic to your website. If you have a strong visual component to your organization (visual products, services, events, etc.), you should especially consider adding Instagram to your social plan. It’s vast and exponential popularity along with unique touch make Instagram a social network that cannot be dismissed.
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A locally owned family business that has been active in Indianapolis for over 10 years, The Peters Group is a leader in Indianapolis irrigation and lawn care, landscaping, and outdoor lighting services. Chris Peters, the founder and president of The Peters Group, feels that the new site is a dramatic improvement over the company’s previous website and that it does a much better job communicating the organization’s strengths and capabilities - to create and maintain beautiful and livable yards, lawns and outdoor living areas.
“I give Marketpath an A+ grade on their web design, development and marketing work. They helped to re-brand our company and also helped is develop an ongoing content marketing plan to showcase our leadership and expertise in irrigation and lawn care, landscaping, and outdoor lighting.”
The new site also features The Perfect Lawn Blog, which will provide home owners with tips and insight into lawn care, eco-friendly best practices, and ideas to help families get the most out of their yards and outdoor living spaces. The site was also developed with search optimization (SEO) in mind, so that The Peters Group receives greater visibility within Central Indiana for their irrigation, landscaping and outdoor lighting services. The new site was developed using a responsive (mobile-friendly) design framework, so that mobile users (phone, tablet, etc.) will have the best possible experience when viewing the site and interacting with the new Peters Group brand.
Finally, Marketpath worked closely with The Peters Group team to develop an ongoing content marketing strategy focused creating credibility for the organization and greater online visibility. The content plan leverages the new The Perfect Lawn Blog to highlight the company’s expertise, while also leveraging both written and visual content through multiple project galleries that feature imagery from Indianapolis area homes. Content syndication via new social channels (Facebook, Twitter) are also part of the plan. And because Marketpath CMS (website content management) is very easy to use, ongoing site updates and content marketing should be easy to accomplish for The Peters Group’s small internal staff.
To learn more about The Peters Group, visit their new site at www.thepetersgroupllc.com and to learn more about Marketpath, visit www.marketpath.com. If you'd like to view additional responsive web designs and sites, visit our Mobile Website Project Gallery.
Marketpath executives Matt Zentz and Kevin Kennedy survived (barely) the 2014 OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon this past Saturday. The event, the nation's largest half marathon, is in its 37th year and kicks off Indianapolis' great month of May.
Now that the Mini is complete, and we are nursing our sore limbs, we have vowed not to exercise until the month is over. Bring on the Indy 500!
In a previous post, I wrote how website credibility, or creating credibility with your website, should be a small business’ number one objective. In my post, titled Credibility is Paramount for Small Business Websites, I suggested that creating credibility for your organization should be a significant part of your website strategy, possibly even more so than site visibility (via search engine rankings) - although both strategies should be connected. The basic reason for this is that credibility can dramatically impact not only your online conversions, but offline conversions as well, which can lead to greater sales and enhanced brand perception.
So if credibility is so important, what can you do to positively impact your organization’s credibility on your small business website? The truth is I have no idea. OK, I do have some idea, but as each business is different, so too will each plan be to create credibility for your organization. And, as I don’t know your organization like you do, I also can’t create a credibility plan that will completely fit your business – at least not until I learn more about your organization and your dealings. So, as you read through the rest of this article, use it as a starting point for your own organization’s credibility plan or something to get your creative juices flowing. With that said, here are three (3) main components to creating credibility on your home page and throughout your entire website.
- Have a Professional Looking Site:
As I mentioned in my previous article, your website is the new yellow pages for your business – it’s the first place any prospect will go when they want to learn more about your organization and what you do. With that said, you don’t want them arriving to your homepage and immediately having a poor experience (and opinion of your company). That’s what will happen if your site is old, outdated or poorly designed – even if you have good content within your site.
If your site looks unprofessional or unorganized, a prospect may never even take the step of browsing your site for specific content. If you have a high home page bounce rate, this could be the reason. Think back to the last time you went shopping in a new mall for the first time. You walk around and stick your head in a few stores to see if they quickly interest you. If they don’t quickly grab your attention, you don’t walk in and browse – instead you move on to the next storefront. Same thing with your website – make a positive impression in the first five to ten seconds, or the user will move on to other options.
Now days you also need to make that positive impression regardless of the device (desktop, tablet, phone, etc.) your audience is using. If you don't have a responsive web design or mobile friendly site, odds are that smart phone web viewers will not have a positive experience.
- Feature Content that Shows Your Expertise:
When I visit a website for the first time, my mental processing works like this. First, can I tell what the organization does in the first few seconds and do I get a generally favorable impression from the site’s overall appearance? If so, I then move on to my specific need or reason for searching or visiting that site. Does the organization offer the product, service, or information I’m looking for? If the answer is “Yes” again and I quickly see that high level offering (product, service, etc.), then I move on to specifics that will make me more comfortable in taking some next step (conversion), whether that next step is buying, making a call, or downloading an article.
So depending on what your organization does, what type of content will portray you as an expert, provide credibility, and make me more comfortable so I will take that next step (conversion)? Certain content, such as awards, press releases, membership in associations, or featuring well known customers, will provide basic confidence that your organization is credible. Different types of content can really hook me and drive me further down your purchasing or conversion cycle. If, for instance, I’m searching for a service offering, my next thought process may be whether your company has specific experience with my type of company or industry. Testimonials, case studies, project galleries, or white papers – specific to my industry or more specific needs (project type for example) – give me a much greater level of comfort that you are a viable option. Specific blog posts that touch on details (examples, industries, specific types of projects, etc.) can also provide that same level of reassurance I’m looking for, while positioning your organization as a leader in your space.
- Reinforce Leadership via Social media:
The third way to create web credibility is directly related to the strong content I discussed above. A strong social media presence can reinforce the positive impression your website provides, while allowing you to leverage some of that compelling content across multiple channels that encourage sharing and that will drive more eyes to your site. Nowadays, you may have certain individuals that start their search via different social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, Google+, or even Pinterest or Instagram if you have robust visual content. Having a strong presence on these sites will drive visitors to your website, but will also provide yet another level of comfort for those prospects that use that particular social marketing site. Reviews via sites like Google+, Facebook, Yelp, or Citysearch can also enhance credibility and help drive conversions, especially in certain industries (restaurants, service business, etc.) where reviews are prevalent. With that said, most small organizations don’t have the resources to have a positive presence on all the sites I mentioned. I’d recommend starting small and doing one or two social sites well, rather than trying to manage too much too soon. Remember, a poor impression on a social media site can be much worse than not having a site, and will hurt your credibility.
Whether you are designing a new website or just updating your current site, you should spend some time developing a content strategy that focuses on creating credibility for your website and your overall business. If you need help developing your social media or content strategy, contact Marketpath today. ,
KSM Transport Advisors (KSMTA), leaders in trucking profitability strategies and trucking consulting services, recently launched a new website to support their new branding and marketing initiatives.
David Roush, President of KSMTA, believes the new site does a much better of job of supporting the organization’s brand identity and communicating the organization’s leadership within the trucking industry.
“KSMTA needed a new website that looked polished and up-to-date, integrating our parent brand’s visual identity, while utilizing a flexible technology platform for content expansion and management. Marketpath successfully met our needs in these areas and more. Their professionals worked with multiple parties, including myself and our marketing team, in a seamless fashion. What’s more, the project came in on time and on budget and has received rave reviews from our clients.”
The new site, designed and developed by Marketpath, Inc., features new content focused on KSMTA’s two main trucking industry offerings:
- Carrier Profitability Assessments – Consulting assessments focus on industry best practices and benchmarks, providing a thorough analysis of the current situation and creating a roadmap so the identified issues can be quantified, prioritized and pursued.
- Carrier Profitability Products – Products that support and improve carrier profitability and efficiency.
The new site also includes KSM Transport Advisors’ new blog, Trucking Profitability Insights, where KSMTA will feature trucking industry expertise, insight and advice to help transportation and trucking organizations improve their operating efficiency and profitability. The site was also developed with search optimization in mind, so that KSMTA receives greater visibility within the transportation and trucking industry. It was created using a responsive (mobile-friendly) design and development framework, so that mobile users (phone, tablet, etc.) will have the best possible experience when viewing the KSMTA site and interacting with the KSM Transport Advisors brand. Finally, KSMTA is utilizing Marketpath CMS for ongoing website management – Market path’s easy-to-use solution for effective website content management and content marketing.
To learn more about KSM Transport Advisors, visit their new site at www.ksmta.com and to learn more about Marketpath, visit www.marketpath.com. If you'd like to view additional responsive web designs, visit our Mobile Website Project Gallery.
I seem to have this conversation often. While meeting with clients and prospects to discuss their websites and general Internet marketing strategies they lean in and say with some degree of certainty, "we also need an app." My response, 9 times out of 10, is "no, you don't." Here's why:
Apps are expensive. Utilized primarily for the marketing and promotion of your products or services, an app will not yield a very good return on your investment. An app must be built for multiple platforms (iOS and Droid at the very least), requires developers who are currently very expensive and in demand, and then will require maintenance for bug fixes and operating system changes.
Apps are clunky. A user not only has to make a conscious effort to find and then install your app, they also have to make a conscious effort to open it. You might be able to lead users to the app store by providing a friendly link on your website but that still requires effort. Most people won't take those steps. I already have too many apps installed by my kids, like Math Puppy, Castle Doombad, and Celebrity Pimple (don't ask). I don't want more apps I don't plan to use frequently. The other issue is that you also probably don't provide enough regular content to hold users interest and keep them coming back for more. If you don't provide the content and it takes extra steps to open the app, it likely ain't gonna work.
With that said, however, there are many occasions where building a custom app could be very beneficial. Here are some examples:
Lots of great, engaging content. If you do provide a great deal of content through your website (i.e. blogs, news, white papers, etc) then you could benefit from an app. You'll need solid readership for this, though. If you don't already have a core group of followers who read and share your content, then build that first and then reevaluate your need for a custom app later. If you do, apps can be a great tool that your core users will have with them at the tap of a finger. You can push alerts for new posts and events, provide more integrated sharing methods (email, SMS/texting, facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc), and take advantage of some of the other built-in capabilities, like photos, videos, and GPS.
Integration with existing applications. Let's say you're a manufacturing company or a retail operation, your app could allow users to place orders, virtually assemble and preview products, login to their existing accounts, or interact with your company's data in any number of ways. This reason alone is primarily why companies build apps. Integration with existing databases and applications provides a convenient and easy mechanism to conduct business with you and gives you a big advantage over rivals.
There are many considerations when deciding if you need an app but I can narrow it down to two:
- Will it help you sell a lot more widgets or land new accounts? If the answer is no, easy peasy. No more questions. If the answer is yes then the follow-up question is:
- How much are you willing to invest to make this happen and what is your minimum anticipated return? That's where a feasibility study comes into play and is beyond the scope of this post. But simply ballparking it would suffice.
If you can't justify an app, perhaps you should convert your site to a responsive/mobile website. This will improve the overall user experience for everyone who reaches you on a handheld device or tablet and is a great way to push off the need (or perceived need) for an app.
Yesterday the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the FCC's net neutrality rule. There are many pundits who are claiming this is the end of free expression over the Internet and the beginning of content censorship. With this ruling Internet providers now have the legal authority to block, slow down or speed up any content they want that is delivered over their networks. Imagine MSNBC paying Comcast and AT&T to speed up and prioritize the delivery of their content so that a rival like Fox News gets relegated to a slower speed or blocked entirely. Or perhaps Verizon went to Google and Facebook and demanded fees to allow their broadband subscribers access. Why not? Direct TV just did it with The Weather Channel. Comcast dropped the Big Ten Network several years back and I could no longer watch Hoosier basketball. It was a travesty!
This is not a fair comparison, though. Cable companies broker deals with networks to provide what they feel is the content their subscribers want. And cable companies pay those networks for access. In the case of the Internet, broadband providers don't pay websites for their content. They only pay to plug into the bigger global network and they get paid by their subscribers for access to that network.
What this Means
With the net neutrality rule struck down, broadband providers have a case to regulate the content delivered on their private networks and if they do, they have to tell their customers what they are blocking or regulating. In my mind, I feel this is fair. They own the physical network and equipment that connects people to the larger Internet. It is not a publicly funded infrastructure.
They have already done this before, too. Several companies still block access to SMTP port 25 (SMTP stands for Simple Mail Transport Protocol). This is the standard port (or channel) through which email is sent. They did this because home users were getting infected with viruses that would scan their computers and consequently send email via port 25 to everyone on their contact list or use their computer as a make-shift email server to spam others. Most email users send email securely through other ports now, so this doesn't matter as much, but broadband providers were getting hammered with unauthorized virus-related traffic which affected everyone's Internet experience. So they shut it down.
Broadband companies have also blocked peer to peer ports where a lot of content pirating takes place. This consumes enormous bandwidth and much of the traffic, in my non-statistics based opinion, is illegal. They've also had a hand in limiting traffic from video services, such as Netflix, which consumes many gigabytes of data for a single movie. Once a threshold was met, they began to throttle, affecting the end user's experience.
Why it Doesn't Matter (so much)
First of all, I don't think you're going to see much more than we do already. If broadband providers begin to block access to certain websites then customers will move to another provider (assuming they have the choice). To begin blocking and throttling common sites regularly, though, providers will quickly encounter significant technical hurdles.
- HTTPS. Website traffic (which aside from video streaming traffic represents most of the traffic on the Internet) uses the HTTP protocol. Standard HTTP sends everything over network port 80 in plain text. It's easy to sniff network packets and see where a user is going. But then there is HTTPS which is the secure version of HTTP. It traditionally runs over network port 443 and all of its traffic is heavily encrypted with increasingly robust SSL certificates. In other words, it's nearly impossible to decrypt, so broadband providers can't find out where the user is going, except by the physical IP address (e.g. 18.104.22.168). Even with that they may know that CNN runs their web servers on the IP address 22.214.171.124 but CNN likely has hundreds of servers with varying IP addresses and can change most of those with just a few mouse clicks (yes, I'm oversimplifying here!). Bottom line, it is really hard to crack an HTTPS web session and keep track of the millions of domains and their rotating IP addresses. Using HTTPS keeps your sessions private and does not allow broadband providers much insight into what you're doing. The only caveat is that the website you're visiting must have an SSL certificate in place so that you can use HTTPS with their site.
- Proxy Servers. A proxy server is basically a virtual tunnel for Internet traffic. Within minutes, I can redirect all my computer's traffic to a proxy server in India or Hong Kong which then acts as the origination for all of my network traffic. My broadband provider only knows that I have a connection to some random IP address on some random port. If they block it, I can choose another and then another. I have a nearly unlimited number of choices through which I could direct my traffic and they will have no idea what I'm doing.
- New Protocols. HTTP and HTTPS are just two out of hundreds of protocols that define the delivery of data from its source to its destination. There are others that could be adopted in place of HTTP. If so, broadband providers would have to redevelop their snooping infrastructure to accommodate those new protocols.
Perhaps you're thinking that the average individual wouldn't take these steps and you're right... for now. With an entire world of people wanting open and free access to information they will continuously innovate to get around those evil corporations and easy to use tools will be developed for the average Joe Schmoe to do the same.
The only real leverage broadband providers have is to generally limit how much data people consume or throttle the speed at which it is delivered. Not where it comes from. We're lucky right now that we get fast, unlimited data but the idea of charging fees for heavier users has already been pushed around. And, as long as people have a choice of providers, they should be able to charge based on quantity and speed. But if they begin to do this you can bet your wallet that the backlash from their subscribers will be severe and harsh. Consumers found their voice online a long time ago and their message will certainly be heard.
That’s the phrase to keep in mind with the introduction of Google’s new Hummingbird algorithm. While previous updates Penguin and Panda were modifications to the company’s existing algorithm, Hummingbird is a complete replacement. What does that mean for SEO? In a nutshell, the days of extensive keyword data are over – at least in regard to individual search terms driving your site optimization strategy.
Hummingbird is based on semantic search, which means that individual terms are no longer the main driving force behind what gets found during an online search. Instead, Google provides results it believes meet the context of the search and the user’s overall intent. Rather than one or two individual words triggering the results, entire phrases within the search help generate what is found.
For most, the change shouldn’t come as a surprise. Google has been moving in this direction for some time now, improving their technology to eliminate sites designed to game the system. Forward thinking web development businesses have anticipated the shift. Though extensive keyword data was valuable, and still is to some degree, it doesn’t remove the fact that what matters most is rich, engaging content that can be shared across networks.
Google’s position is clear: As the dominant search engine, the company wants to make sure they provide the results users want. The questions are simple:
- What is the user’s intent?
- In what context are they asking for this information? In other words, why is it valuable to them?
Though Google owns the market, they’re savvy enough to realize that the closer they are to the user’s target, the more likely they’ll remain the industry leader. At the heart of the movement is the need to instill trust. The user puts their trust in Google, and they, in turn, attempt to provide the best answers.
As a website owner, your job is to create valuable, relevant content. That’s what will draw people in. If you don’t, you can’t expect Google to find you.
Are you generating quality content that takes into account the changes in SEO? If not, Marketpath can help you put together a content marketing program. Contact us today to learn more.
Financial Health FCU launches new website!
Financial Health FCU launched a new website to highlight their services and financial health tools.