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Content Marketing

Content Marketing

Best Practices for Effective Content Marketing

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Most marketers agree that content marketing is very difficult to do well, especially for small businesses with limited people and resources. To help I’ve put together a list of guidelines or best practices for effective content marketing.
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A Good Content Marketing Plan Will Keep You in Business

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The typical business owner has a fairly stable gauge for assessing success. Solid revenue, a strong sales funnel, and opportunities for growth. Sure, there are plenty of other metrics you can apply, but these form the core. How a business owner goes about establishing that foundation, however, is open for discussion. At the very least, passively waiting around for the phone to ring is a bad idea. You have to proactively get business.

Content Marketing improves credibility and SEO, while driving leadsFor many companies, hard sales tactics don’t work. Small businesses frequently can’t afford a dedicated sales team. In many cases, the owners know they’re just not good at it. But one way that any business, regardless of size, can create opportunities is through content marketing. As business models continue to change, a good content marketing plan may very well be the tool that keeps you in business.

Content marketing is the practice of brands developing and curating content that communicates a story which resonates with customers. Readers find the content useful or entertaining and worth sharing. As a result, the brand, product or service highlighted in the story reaches several audience layers. Decision makers who reside within those layers and have need for your services could then pick up the phone or contact you via your website.

Now, before you go throwing every random piece of content up on your website, you must first consider your audience and intent.

  • Who do you want to read your blog?
  • How would you define the ideal person you want to click on your video or read your email?
  • How and where will your audience find your content?

Beyond that, after your intended audience reads or views your content, what do you want them to do next? Share it on Facebook or Twitter? Pick up the phone and call you? Sign up for your newsletter?  You need to identify your strategy.  You should also make sure your content strategy is directly related to your search engine optimization (SEO) objectives – if done right, strong content is the best way to drive improvements in search rankings.

And, oh by the way, the content should be good. A house painter wouldn’t throw a sign in the yard of a home where he butchered the job with unclean lines and painted shut windows. A blog post with bad grammar, absence of style, and lack of thought gets you nowhere.  But a well written post might provide credibility and turn a prospect into a lead – a lead that looks at your company as an expert in your field.

Is your organization currently employing a content marketing strategy? If so, is it working? If not, what are you waiting for? Contact us today to find out more about the benefits of content marketing.

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Happy New Year - Content Marketing 101 Refresher

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It's 2013, you've survived the zombie apocalypse, and with the new year comes an opportunity to inject fresh energy and ideas into your content marketing. So let's get back to the basics a bit and walk through the fundamental elements of a good content marketing initiative. I think it's a good idea to occasionally review the basics in any project, especially as the project evolves into a bigger, more complex animal. This ensures you don't fall off course and that you stick to the general guidelines.

Content marketing is the essential ingredient for Marketpath's three pillars of effective website marketing - Visibility, Engagement, and Conversion. It is creating high quality content to be read and shared by others in order to get them to do something. Content creates the foundation for all website marketing efforts.

Without good content you only have a framework. Not having good content in your marketing mix is like having a football stadium without the football games. So, how do you get started or back on track? You answer the questions below to formulate a plan and then you write, or hire a writer to do it for you.

What do you want your visitors to do?

Conversion is one of Marketpath's 3 pillars of website marketingBefore you write anything, you need to understand and define what you want your website visitors to do. Do you want them to call a phone number, fill out a form for more information, download a case study or white paper, purchase a product, make a reservation, join a group, attend an event? This is your conversion - when an anonymous visitor becomes a known visitor or a customer. This is the beginning of your relationship with that individual.

The first conversion, however, may not be the only conversion. It might be a series of small conversions that lead up to the conversion that actually affects your bottom line - a purchase or new project. Compare this to a man courting a woman. He didn't jump out of a cake and make a marriage proposal upon first sighting. There were a series of efforts involved in getting to that point. The same may go for your visitors.

Are you a professional services firm? Then you probably need to establish expertise and rapport with your future clients. This happens over many interactions. Are you a retailer of low-cost furnace filters? Then your initial conversions are probably a purchase by new customers. Whatever your business, you need to understand the series of events involved with how new customers engage and convert.

Equally important, you should evaluate how existing customers continue to make purchases, kick off new projects, or simply maintain their current level of business with you. This may involve ongoing content that keeps their interest and maintains your prominence and expertise in the industry. This takes me to our next big question....

How will you persuade visitors to convert?

This is the engagement portion of Marketpath's three pillars of website effectiveness. What sort of content should you provide to initially engage or maintain the interest of your constituents? Great content leads to great conversions. If you cannot capture the attention of your website's visitors then you're not going to convert them. It's that simple.

Engagement is one of Marketpath's 3 pillars of website marketingYou can maintain a blog about best practices, put together quarterly white papers, create a video series, or write how-to's that demonstrate your products. Content comes in many forms and you need to understand (and experiment) with what motivates your audience to read, watch, or listen to the content you provide. This will be an evolution and probably not something you'll get right the first time.

Your content can be educational, entertaining, inspiring, etc. Again, this depends on your audience and knowing what will motivate them to engage.

Once you begin pushing content you should check your website analytics and measure visitor counts (new vs. returning), time on site (narrowed down to individual pages), referrers (where visitors come from), and bounce rate (visitors who land somewhere in your website and then quickly leave). These are the basics that will lead you in the direction of providing better stuff. You'll want increasing visitor counts, increasing time on site, increasing referrers, and a low bounce rate. 

How will you get visitors to your site?

Oculus Rift is awesome and visibility is one of Marketpath's 3 pillars of website marketingYour content may be well written, highly engaging, and exude your expertise. But without people reading or watching it, who cares? This is where the visibility portion of Marketpath's three pillars of website marketing comes in. You must promote your content before you get followers. Eventually, if it is good enough, people will help spread it for you. But you should always include some content promotion in your plans.

If you haven't established a presence within social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc), then you'll want to do this as part of your content marketing efforts. I won't get into specifics regarding social media here but with established social media connections your content will reach the eyes of current and prospective customers. If interested, they may read your blog post, and even more important, if your content engaged them and provided some benefit (learning a new skill, laughing, etc) they may even share it within their network.

Other ways to promote your content may include adding it to a regular email newsletter, submitting to local news agencies, presenting it during seminars or webinars, or asking others in your industry to read it and share it. Regardless of the channels you use you will always need to promote.

Who creates the content?

You. Or Sam from sales. Or the CEO. Or everyone. Whoever you choose make sure they want to. A couple years ago I ordered everyone in our office to blog. Some were required to write a post only once per month, some twice a month, and others once a week. Most of my staff complied, some grudgingly, others never contributed a thing. I don't think it was because they were intentionally ignoring me but likely because they just aren't writers and couldn't tackle the job.

The point is, you need to have serious buy-in from whomever provides content. If they are on staff, volunteers will outperform those mandated. Some people just don't want to be public. They enjoy being behind the scenes. Others want that publicity, to be recognized, and to be a more visible piece of the company.

Don't cast aside the possibility of outsourcing your content creation. There are numerous online copywriting services and you probably have a slew of agencies in town happy to assist. Video writers, producers, and actors are also more and more available. These should be an option to individuals with little time. Just make sure the resulting content is representative of your organization.

When to start?

Now. Building visibility, engagement, and conversions takes time and consistency. The longer you wait, the longer it will take you to build and maintain your audience. And the longer it will take to see results, if any.

Good luck and remember, you survived the zombie apocalypse so you can conquer just about anything now, especially a non-threatening content marketing effort.

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What is Content Marketing and Why is it Important?

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Traditional outbound marketing and advertising have taken a backseat to “Content Marketing.”  Instead of buying ads, banners, and search rankings, companies all over the web are turning to this relatively new form of attracting and gaining clients and customers.   

     Content marketing is the creation of unique content for use in
     blog posts, 
videos, white papers, images (infographics), how-to guides,
     case studies, to gain more leads and acquire more customers.

If the content is unique and interesting, the message can spread across the web quickly.  Users and search engines alike have begun to pick up on this trend, bringing their purchasing power or rankings with it, respectively.  Here are a few tips to help you get started:

Dedicate the Time

Just seeing the words “unique content” might make small to medium sized business owners & marketers cringe.  Creating something that is unique and interesting is the most difficult task of the entire process, so don’t try to skip over it.  It is important that your message is clear, concise and entertaining.

Repurpose Content

Once you have content to market, repurpose it in many different forms.  Often times a blog post can be turned into a short video.  Add more data to the blog post and turn it into a case study.  Take that case study and make it visual, via an infographic.  The same topic can be used throughout multiple channels, minimizing the time it takes to create new topics and content. 

Share it

What good is shareable content if nobody can find it in the first place?  None.  Don’t make the mistake of putting up a blog post and expecting people to get there.  Create an email newsletter and/or tweet out links to it.  Have a video?  Put it on YouTube and share it across your social channels.  Have an interesting infographic or image?  Pinterest and Facebook should be your targets. 

So, why is it important?

With the ever evolving search engine algorithms valuing different tactics, having unique and interesting content has always remained important.  Now more than ever Google is focusing on bringing these content creating websites to the top of their rankings.

More content equals more visitors which usually equals more leads (assuming your website isn’t a complete dumpster fire for conversions).   



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Top Blog Posts of 2016

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As the end of 2016 approaches, we’re looking back at some of our most memorable, interesting, and useful blog posts related to web design and development, SEO, social and content marketing. The following is a list of our top 11 most popular articles of the past year from our Digital Marketing Insights blog.
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Why Blog? Statistics Show the Benefits

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Debating whether blogging makes sense for your business? Read the stats. Many show why blogging is one of the most effective content marketing strategies in use today.
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Why Your Business Should Select Marketpath CMS for Web Content Management & Marketing

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Is your website successful? Does your site support your brand, drive business growth, and bring in sales Marketpath (Indianapolis Web Design, Development & Content Management)leads? If not, it’s time to consider upgrading your business website. In the age of technology an informative, appealing, and accessible website has a direct correlation to business growth and credibility.

Marketpath CMS is the web content management and content marketing solution that can convert your website from a static billboard into a valuable marketing tool that can drive business growth. Here are just a few of the reasons why your business should choose Marketpath CMS:

Great Tool Set-

Marketpath CMS provides the perfect toolset to manage your website updates and content marketing. Our software gives your business a stress-free way to manage and update your site even for non-technical people. All updates and additions to the site happen in one place, via the web! Whether one is updating text copy, adding images or videos to a gallery, or creating calendar events, Marketpath CMS does it all! Businesses have the ability to create event registration pages, to build surveys and web forms via our form builder, to work with SEO tools, to create and publish blogs, and more. With Marketpath CMS’s breadth of tools and ease, it makes confusing and tricky website marketing effortless!

Support-

Selecting Marketpath CMS means you’ve chosen one of the easiest and highest rated content management systems available today – one that is currently used by hundreds of other large and small businesses. But that’s not all; you’ll all receive the constant support of the Marketpath team. With your Marketpath CMS subscription, you’ll receive unlimited support for all your website and content management needs. You can call or email at any time and we’ll be eager to help with any questions or needs. Need help uploading a case study or document for the first time? We can walk you through it. Forgot how to add a video? We’ll help you out. But it isn’t only technical support Marketpath can provide. We’re also available to provide marketing assistance and guidance when desired. Need advice on creating a landing page or on how to optimize a new page for search? Just ask and we’ll gladly provide marketing advice. For many small businesses, with limited technical or marketing resources, Marketpath can be a valuable partner that supports your internal team. One of our strengths is our availability and dedication to our customers.

Website Monitoring and Hosting-

In addition to our support, Marketpath meets all your website monitoring and hosting needs. We track your site to make sure it is up and running and our alerted if any issues arise. We also monitor your website to ensure it is always working at an acceptable speed, so that your users have a positive experience. As a small business it can be difficult to have enough technical resources that have both the time and experience to handle your growing website needs. When you work with Marketpath, you won’t need any internal technical support - Marketpath manages it all.

Automatic Upgrades-

With Marketpath CMS your business doesn’t have to worry about keeping up with the latest technology trends and changes. We’ll add new functionality (new tools, enhancements, etc.) at least every quarter to your software. Your website will never get outdated technically because the Marketpath team works with evolving technology, constantly building it into our software, to improve your digital marketing capabilities. Any new functionalities or technology are automatically made available to your company, so you won’t have to worry about it. That's the benefit of Marketpath CMS's Software as a Servive (SaaS) or On-Demand platform.

Indianapolis Web & Digital Marketing Services (Marketpath,Inc.)Web/Digital Marketing Services-

Marketpath not only gives you a great software toolset and support, but also becomes your partner and expert in digital marketing strategy. Regardless of your online marketing needs, Marketpath is there to work with you. With expertise in web design (including responsive websites) and website development, content marketing, site optimization (SEO), and social marketing, the Marketpath team is there to give your business the online presence it needs.

Let us know how we can help your business or non profit or see how we helped other organizations like yours by visiting our website case studies or website projects sections.

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Stenz Construction Launches Responsive Website

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Stenz Construction Corporation launched a new website this week to support their growth and to further position their organization as a leader in Indianapolis Construction Services.

Stenz Construction Selects Marketpath for Web Design and Web Content ManagementStenz is a full-service general contractor, construction manager and real estate services firm, headquartered in Downtown Indianapolis.  Since their founding in 1973, Stenz has built an impressive resume of work throughout the Midwest and across a variety of project types; ranging from interior remodels to complex high-rise construction, and demanding historic renovation and adaptive reuse projects. Stenz's mission is to deliver quality, innovative and cost effective solutions to their partners and clients. 

Beau Ansty, Director of Asset Management for Stenz, 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 heritage, expertise and capabilities.

“We have enjoyed working with Marketpath on the complete redesign of our website. Their expertise on the aesthetic and content strategy has been invaluable", said Mr. Ansty.

The new website, designed and developed by Marketpath, Inc. is structured around Stenz's construction services (general contracting, construction management, real estate services), while also hi-lighting their expertise with specific types of construction projects, including commercial, residential, historic, multi-family, retail, education, religious, and healthcare construction projects. One of the main areas of the new site is the Stenz Project Gallery, which features large, beautiful photography of various Stenz construction projects, showcasing the craftsmanship on display in many of Indianapolis' most significant landmarks worked on by Stenz.

Indianapolis Responsive Website Design (by Marketpath)The new site also features the Building Traditions Blog, which will provide information about significant construction projects around the state of Indiana, as well as best practices regarding general contracting, construction management, and historic building renovations and urban infill projects. The site was also developed with search optimization (SEO) in mind, so that Stenzcorp.com receives greater visibility within Central Indiana for their general contracting and construction services. The new site was developed using a responsive (mobile-friendly) web design framework, so that mobile users (phone, tablet, etc.) will have the best possible experience when viewing the site and interacting with Stenz Construction.

Finally, Marketpath worked closely with the Stenz team to develop an ongoing content marketing strategy focused creating credibility for the organization and greater online visibility. The content plan leverages the new Building Traditions Blog, to highlight the company’s expertise, while also leveraging visual content through multiple project galleries that feature imagery from Indianapolis area construction projects to hi-light Stenz's quality work. Content syndication via social channels (Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus) 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 Stenz's internal staff.

Learn More

To learn more about Stenz Construction Company, visit their new site at www.Stenzcorp.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.

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Why Use Instagram for Your Business?

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Should Your Business Use Instagram?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.

Should Your Organization Use Instagram?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.

Need Help with Your Digital Strategy?

If you need help developing your overall digital marketing strategy, or executing your social and content marketing plan, contact Marketpath today.

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The Peters Group Re-Brands and Launches New Responsive Website

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The Peters Group, formerly known as Affordable Sprinklers LLC, launched a new website this week, to support their company rebranding and digital marketing initiatives.

The Peters Group Selects Marketpath for Web Design and Web Content ManagementA 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, designed and developed by Marketpath, Inc. is structured around The Peter’s Groups’ main service offerings:

Indianapolis Responsive Website Design (by Marketpath)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.

Learn More

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.

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KSM Transport Advisors Launches New Responsive Website Design

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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.

KSM Transport Advisors Selects Marketpath for Web Design and Content ManagementDavid 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.

KSM Transport Advisors Responsive Web Design for MobileThe 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.

Learn More

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.

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What Does Google’s Hummingbird Mean for SEO in 2014?

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Semantic Search.

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.

Google’s Hummingbird AlgorithmHummingbird 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:

  1. What is the user’s intent?
     
  2. 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.

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Top 5 Best Practices in Franchise Website Design

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Franchises have an interesting dilemma when it comes to search marketing and website design. The corporate hub usually maintains overarching control of the brand, but local franchisees need a relevant website that connects with their nearby customers. To ensure that local franchisees are able to develop a robust presence in their market while adhering to corporate mandates requires a delicate balance. Below are the top 5 best practices for franchise website design and marketing.

  1. Defer to Corporate on Branding: Your franchise has likely built its multi-million dollar brand through years of trial and error. Though you have rights as a franchisee, even minor changes to the logo, color palette, vision statement, and font can have repercussions. You need to leave those elements alone and focus on the regional aspects of your positioning.
     
  2. Franchise Website Development (Marketpath, Inc.)Assess the Local Market: After you’ve accepted that there’s little you can do with company brand, you can focus on the pieces that will draw customers to your local franchise.  Make sure your website has a section specific to your local market, where you can provide content that may be specific to your geographic region.  Having the flexibility to easily feature different products or services can go a long way towards local success.

    You may also want to build online campaigns that speak to problems and solutions in your area. If your business is an auto maintenance and repair company, for example, consider the value you can provide customers specific to your climate. Perhaps your organization sells water filtration systems. You could build a campaign around where your water is sourced. Or if you own a restaurant franchise, consider campaigns that connect to local events, teams or themes.
     
  3. Everyone Likes a Deal: The corporate franchise may have national offers, but as a franchisee, you probably have the leeway to offer specials specific to your market. When designing your website, make sure your franchisor includes a section for deals exclusive to your city or region. Consider including a subscription form to collect visitor email addresses for newsletters and coupons.
     
  4. Keep Control of Social Media: Headquarters will have its own content marketing collateral, which you should be able to use. Yet engaging with your local customers is even more important. If a customer uses social media like Facebook or Twitter to discuss your local franchise, you need the ability to respond and to develop ongoing communication with your customers and prospects. It’s corporate’s brand, but it’s your business and specific customer.
     
  5. Employ a Flexible CMS: Your website and content marketing system needs to meet the needs of both the franchisor and the franchisee while maintaining across the board consistency.  Whatever website management or content management solution you choose should offer the flexibility to streamline corporate branding while enabling local franchisees to manage and update content related to their location or territory.

To learn more about ways to maximize franchise website design and marketing, contact Marketpath today.

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Top Reasons Your Small Business Should Use Google+

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Google+ for Small BusinessThe number of social media outlets continues to expand. Because of its quantity of users, Facebook is a must for most businesses, especially if they are consumer focused (B2C). Beyond that, the debate opens up. LinkedIn is extremely important to building professional relationships and for business to business (B2B), Twitter is the most dynamic, and YouTube has a sizable portion of the video market. But the social network with the most significant expansion is Google+ (or Google Plus).

Here are the top reasons your small business should use Google+.

  1. The primary reason your business can’t afford to ignore Google+ is its impact on search rankings (SEO). As the number one search engine, Google has incorporated Google+ into its algorithms. Here’s why this matters: Suppose your organization is on Google+ and posts content through its account. When one of your connections on the network does a search, your content is more likely to have a higher ranking in the results. Countless studies have been done on the value of page placement. Bottom line – the higher you appear, the better.
     
  2. Google+ is growing. The latest data indicates, with hundreds of millions of users, it’s the second largest social network behind Facebook, with just over 50% of internet users with a Google+ account. A business would be hard-pressed to ignore that many potential customers.
     
  3. Google’s integration is far reaching. Google Places and Maps, for example, impact local search results. When a potential customer does a search for a service – say, content marketing – a local firm with an active Google+ profile is more likely to appear near the top of the results. And let’s not forget Gmail – how long will it be before there is a closer connection between Google’s email users and Google Plus?
     
  4. One of the most valuable, new aspects of Google+ is its integration of Authorship. By linking a small business employee’s Google+ account image with, for example, a company blog post, early studies have shown an increase in conversion of as much as 150 percent.

    Google Authorship
     
  5. Everyone’s a critic and Google realizes that. Google+ Reviews are now showing up in search activity, which impacts leads and, ultimately, conversion. A small business can take advantage of this feature by proactively soliciting reviews about its product or service from their customers - see Flat 12 Bierwerks example below. The result – better control of the perception of your brand.

Flat 12 Bierwerks Leverages Positive Reviews

Many organizations and individuals have had their fill of social media networks and are content to stick with already established accounts that have delivered results. But the growth of Google+ can’t be ignored, especially when valued customers are at stake.

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Garbage Content In = Garbage Results Out

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Today is trash day. Every home in my neighborhood takes their trash out to the curb and a service comes to pick it up so we never have to think about it again. It's also recycling day. Next to our trash, with no less than three feet of space between adjacent objects, we place our oversized recycling bin. This is always full, which typically leaves us with only half of one trash can.

Every week I notice how some of our neighbors always have 2-3 full trash cans and often additional bags beyond that. These folks don't recycle, which is fine. Everyone has their own M-O. I do believe in it, though, and it boggles my mind how they have so much garbage, especially when many of them are empty nesters. Then it dawns on me - fast food or frozen, packaged foods.  I know several of them eat quick to prepare garbage food which equals lots of garbage at the curb. Food that is not terribly healthy for your health's bottom line. Lots of garbage coming in = lots of garbage going out.

Garbage Content In = Garbage Results OutThe same can easily happen with your blogging and content marketing effort. If the content you write and share with your audience has little to no value and only serves the purpose of filling a void or a schedule then it is very likely garbage content. And with garbage content, you'll get garbage results.

 

 


Don't "Just Write" - Write to Engage

There are many advocates of the "just write" philosophy which essentially means don't worry about the quality, just write as much content as you can to gain more search engine visibility and eyeballs. I don't subscribe to this. While its important to gain visibility through search engines, their models of determining what content is important and what is not changes monthly. And in the end, you have real people who read your content. If you put out garbage, they will become Tiggers and bounce away quicker than you can say "Bouncing is what Tiggers do best!" 

There is also something to say about frequency and this is where content writers often get tripped up. If you don't write often enough, then it's like a guy standing in a crowded place and only once yelling "I have the answers!" Some people will probably throw a glance but they won't stop. But if he yells "I have the answers" every few minutes, people will eventually stop. And if he truly has the answers and provides reasonable value, the word will spread and more people will stop to listen.

That balance, where content engages on a regular basis, only comes with practice, monitoring results, and tweaking. Practice is at the foundation of the "just write" mindset. But don't let that fool you into writing garbage content, or in other words, content that really has no value to your target audience. People don't like listening unless it is valuable to them and engages their attention. Your "practice" should be more about writing style and flow where the underlying topics hold real value.

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What are the Right Social Media Networks for Your Business?

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How does a business choose the right social media platforms? Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter have been around for several years now. Pinterest and Instagram are gaining traction. But many businesses are still trying to figure out ways to leverage the technologies.

Social Marketing and Content Marketing StrategyThe first step in choosing the right social media platforms for your business is to identify your goals. Consider why you want to use a particular network. Do you want to increase customer engagement? Is your primary focus establishing an audience? Maybe it all comes down to sales? Take some time to work through the reasons your business could benefit from launching into social media.

After you’ve determined the triggers for your social strategy, you can then establish a process to reach those goals. Social media for businesses requires a plan to succeed, and that plan needs to be driven by content marketing. Regardless of the social channel, you need to determine what content provides value to your prospects and customers, while adding credibility to your business. You need time to build an audience, followed by studying analytics to determine ways to improve the plan.

Strategy in place, you can move on to choosing platforms. Below are some of the most prominent social marketing channels:

  1. Facebook – Whether it’s perfect for your business might be irrelevant. Facebook is the biggest network so your organization probably needs to have a presence, especially if your business is consumer focused. Internally, you must determine how to best leverage the system, and at what level.
     
  2. Twitter – Twitter moves quickly, so your audience will determine how effective it can be for your strategy. In terms of ease of use and efficiency, however, Twitter can’t be beat.  If your business has a lot going on (news, new products, events or promotions) Twitter is also a great way to communicate on a daily basis. Finally, Twitter is a great way to leverage a strong content marketing strategy, attracting new audience members to your blog, case studies, white papers, videos, etc.
     
  3. LinkedIn – All businesses need to establish a presence on LinkedIn. Professional relationships form the heart of this network. As a result, it’s the most business-to business (B2B) focused of the social networks. If you sell to other businesses (B2B), you should be on LinkedIn.
     
  4. YouTube – Video, along with blog content, is rapidly becoming the backbone of any content marketing strategy. In today’s business environment, an impactful one to two-minute video clip can deliver exciting results. If you have content that is conducive to video, you should develop a YouTube strategy.
     
  5. Google+ -- Though it’s still gaining audience, Google’s social network is important for one key reason: search engine rankings. Because of Google’s importance in how anyone finds your business, I’d suggest having both a personal and business Google+ page.  If the type of business you’re in is impacted strongly by “reviews” – such as a restaurant, having a Google+ presence will be even more important.
     
  6. Pinterest – Pinterest is getting a reputation as the social network for housewives, but it can be useful if your business features a strong visual component. Pinterest, for example, may be useful if you want to promote a wall of products. Do your products visually sell themselves? Are influencers such as designers or decorators involved in your business (remodeling, furniture, home products, art, etc.)? If so, then Pinterest may be a great way to visually promote your products and brand.
     
  7. Instagram – The photo-sharing network has become the go-to place for creating a visual diary. That alone doesn’t make it that valuable for business. But the recent roll-out of the platform’s short video capabilities adds a new level of applicability. Another short video network, Vine, was beginning to grab hold, so it will be interesting to see how the two battle it out for that segment. Instagram can also offer similar benefits as Pinterest for businesses with visual products or services.

Still not sure what the best social media channels are for your company? Marketpath can help you build an online marketing strategy to capitalize on these exciting technologies.

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Blogging – The Small Business (Not-So) Secret Weapon

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Small business owners may find themselves unsure where to focus their online marketing resources. Email endeavors, newsletters, and the plethora of social media options (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest and so on) – the number of channels can be overwhelming. And finding the time to dedicate enough resources to those efforts adds another layer to the puzzle. That’s why the simplicity of business blogging – the not-so-secret weapon of a small business – is so appealing.

Blogging may seem unsexy compared to some options, but it works. Here’s how:

  1. Blogging - Small Business' Content Marketing WeaponBlogging creates credibility – Potential customers are looking for expertise. Blogging offers an easy way to convey your stature as a key thought leader in your industry. And those customers are likely to tell their cohorts about their new source of expertise.
  2. Blogging gives your company a voice – As an extension of building the perception of expertise, blogging enables you to position your organization. It also provides a channel to talk about services or products your company offers, the latest industry news, and upcoming events.
  3. Blogging allows you to begin conversations with potential customers – Marketers are always looking for ways to speed up the sales cycle. A blog gets that relationship started by increasing online activity. Companies that blog generate 55 percent more website visitors, 97 percent more inbound links, and 434 percent more indexed pages. In addition, 7 of 10 businesses believe blogging has led to an improvement in their lead generation success.
  4. Blogging on a consistent schedule builds a library of content to share across other social networks – Your social media audience is looking for valuable content. By pushing blog posts through these channels, you’re pulling people back to your company site and encouraging your network to share your blog posts with their extended networks as well.
  5. Blogging improves search rankings (SEO) – The more you blog, the more often Google will recognize the value of your content in its overall algorithms. As long as the content is of high quality, your ranking will improve.

Blogging is here to stay. More than one-third of companies now use blogs for marketing purposes, and those companies that do blog receive 55 percent more website traffic than companies that don’t. More traffic leads to more opportunities for sales. For the small business owner, ignoring the value of blogging as a marketing tool is a poor business decision.

Does your company need assistance creating a blog and putting together a content marketing strategy? If you are planning an upcoming web design or website development project, don’t forget to include a business blog.  Marketpath can help get you started. Contact us at our Indianapolis office today!

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Four Questions to Help You Select the Perfect Website Design Company

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Accent Maid ServicesSelecting the right web designer for your website can be a tough decision. Costs, levels of experience, and expected outcomes all factor into the pick. You’re not alone if it all seems a bit overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be if you keep your process simple and focused. Consider these four questions for selecting the perfect website design company:

  1. Can you show me some examples of your work? A simple question and one that should be completely expected by a design firm. Of course you want to see what prospective company has done of late. Do they specialize in certain industries? Are they incorporating the latest technologies? How would they build the site? Do their designs incorporate their clients’ business objectives and strategies? You’re looking for designs that speak to you and match your rough vision.
     
  2. How do you ensure I can track the data? Building your new website is only part of the plan. You need to be able to gauge whether you’re reaching the target audience and achieving your organization’s goals. Your design firm should understand the importance of website strategy and analytics to measure site results.  They should also be able to train you on the process for assessing your traffic and conversion data.
     
  3. Venture LogisticsWhat is your communications process? You’re investing not just in a firm’s design capabilities, but also in its ability to convey trust. Basically, you want to feel comfortable paying the bill. The firm you select should have a proactive plan to communicate with you about the status of your project throughout the process. At no point should you be wondering what’s going on with the creation of your website.
     
  4. What support and services do you provide? A new website is just the start of the relationship. You want a firm that’s going to be there to offer customer support, training, and a plan to help you make the most of your investment. A site is necessary to carve out your organization’s online real estate, but you need to feed it. Easy to use content marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) solutions can go a long way to maximizing your website investment.

The four questions above will help you make the right decision when selecting your design and website development agency. Is your company in line for a new website? Marketpath can answer these questions and more, ensuring that your online presence matches your goals.

Contact us today at our Indianapolis office.

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Link Buying & Gaming the System

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So, here we are, a little over a year removed from the JC Penny link buying debacle, and another major SEO player has gotten caught with their hand in the cookie jar.  I won’t go into detail about the latest case of blatant link buying, as you can find the details somewhere else, but I feel like the issue is worth revisiting.

Cash Under the Table
The Equivalent of Buying Links

The Link Buying Problem

In case you’re unfamiliar with the tactic, some SEO companies out there purchase links on their client’s behalf to help boost rankings.  This black hat tactic has been around since the dawn of Google, since they were the first search engine to put such an emphasis on a website’s link profile.  It used to work as simple as more links = higher rank.  Since then, the algorithm has changed dramatically, now focusing more on content, social, sharing, quality, page load speed, etc, but links are still a factor. 

Google has always stated that buying links is against their rules.  Here is the actual language from their site:

Buying or selling links that pass PageRank is in violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results.

Not all paid links violate our guidelines. Buying and selling links is a normal part of the economy of the web when done for advertising purposes, and not for manipulation of search results. Links purchased for advertising should be designated as such.

However, as long as links are a factor in the ranking algorithm, companies and SEO firms are going to do anything possible to gain more of them.

How to Avoid Being the Next News Story

If you want to stay on Google’s good side, content marketing is the way to go.  Creating great, unique, relevant, & sharable content will allow your site to gain traffic and rankings.  The best part about this, the links will come naturally if you’re good at creating content.  Your site will begin ranking for hundreds and thousands of terms if you’re good at creating content.  Your site can break free of the “Keyword Jail Cell”, as I like to call it, and truly become a marketing tool.  Best of all, you don’t have to worry about changes in Google’s algorithm – content will always be king.

No SEO Should Have ThisIf you can’t take care of content marketing with in-house staff and you truly want results from your Internet marketing, then you can hire out some help.  One last word of advice, however, is to make sure whomever you choose to help you knows that you’re strictly against paying for links.  Sure it may work in the short term, but Google, and other watchdogs, are getting awfully good at noticing suspicious activity.  SEO firms these days should talk to you about your business goals, content creation, social strategy and overall marketing plans…not technical SEO.  If you can’t understand what they are going to do for you, don’t break out your checkbook.

Remember, Google's always trying level the playing field.  No company should have an ace up their sleeve.  If a tactic sounds fishy, it probably is. 

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Which Social Network Is Right For My Business?

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As a small business owner, you’ve probably asked yourself this question.  With so many social networks out there, and more joining the list every day, it can be downright intimidating to choose the right one(s) and get started.  This post will focus on the big 5 – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and the relative newcomer and everyone’s favorite right now, Pinterest.

Facebook

FacebookWithout a doubt the largest social network on the web, with something like a gazillion users, a major motion picture detailing its rise, and now a $100 Billion IPO, everyone in the world has heard of Facebook.  So, as a business owner, you think more eyeballs = better ROI…right?  Well, maybe not.  Typically, Facebook is utilized by individuals connecting with friends and colleagues.  This mindset of person-to-person, casual interaction, limits the effectiveness of most B2B efforts on Facebook.  B2C companies on the other hand have more success with this, as it’s not uncommon for Facebook users to Like their favorite consumer brands…it’s basically a status symbol.   Millions of people Like Coca-Cola, BMW or their favorite handbag brand, not their HR Company or their web development company.

Twitter

TwitterTwitter has grown exponentially since its inception.  Users share ideas, links and images 140 characters at a time.  While the majority of tweets are utter nonsense or completely useless, B2B and B2C companies have found success here.  Connecting with thought leaders within an industry, interacting with competitors or customers, and giving clients the ability to gain instant feedback have all helped Twitter become a necessary part of a content marketing strategy.  The time it takes to run and monitor a twitter account can be pretty nominal with the right tools (and the right company to set it up for you), so it’s a good bet for any business.  Remember, twitter shouldn’t be used as a 1 way megaphone…nobody will care.  Share useful articles, talk about others, and participate in conversations.

LinkedIn

LinkedInWithout a doubt, LinkedIn is strictly a B2B social network.  Professionals use LinkedIn to connect on a business level with colleagues, clients, and people they have worked with.  Because users are in a business mindset when they are on the network, B2B efforts can be effective and useful.  The important point to remember here is that you’re not selling while you’re on this network.  Answer questions, solve problems, become the expert in a group of people and your efforts should be rewarded.

Google+

Google+Google+ is Google’s social network.  Depending on which articles you read, it is either dying or thriving.  It’s hard to say what the network will become, but it is important you keep an eye on it.  Google is using data it gathers from the network and plugging it into its search algorithm to help craft search engine results pages.  The more you share on Google+, the better the odds of ranking for particular terms…or at least that’s what it looks like so far.  All signs point to the fact we'll see more and more integration in the future, so it is probably wise to set up your account now. 

Pinterest

PinterestTaking the Internet by storm, Pinterest exploded onto the social networking scene due to its visual nature and simplicity.  The user base has grown extremely quickly, so one again may fall into the “more eyeballs = more leads” mentality.  Before you go jumping into Pinterest though, make sure you have a clear strategy and understanding of what is typically successful here.  Highly visual elements dominate, so your content may need overhauled to fit.  There have been stories of B2B and B2C success here, but the majority of those all revolve around certain industries.  Arts and crafts, recipes, fashion, and home décor are among the top items here, so tread lightly if you’re outside of those industries.

A few key things to remember about getting into social media:

  • Be consistent with your updates and conversations
  • Be real
  • Likes and retweets don’t pay the bills, conversions do…Can you get your followers to take action?

What are your tips for success on these networks?  Join the discussion below.

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How Easy is Marketpath CMS? Build a New Web Page in Minutes!

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The holidays and the Super Bowl are over, so it’s time to get back to our “How Easy is Marketpath CMS” series.  This week, we’ll demonstrate how easy it is to create a brand new web page using Marketpath CMS, our web content management system for small businesses.   

Think about it.  Marketpath lets you create any type of new page in minutes: new product pages, promotional offers, event pages, news, resources pages, project galleries, and more.  Now days, online success is all about content marketing - and we’ll let you easily create the content and calls-to-action your business needs to enhance customer engagement, increase credibility and create leads.  In short- we’ll make your website and online marketing easy

Keep an eye out for our next installment to see how Marketpath lets you easily manage your website’s on-page SEO.

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Marketing Stat of the Month: Blogs vs. Ads

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Did you know 70% of consumers learn about a company through their blog rather than ads
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Marketing Stat of the Month: Paid Search Results vs. Organic Search (SEO) Listings

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Did you know 70-80% of people ignore paid search results, skipping past them to the organic search listings? What are the implications for your SEO and digital strategy?
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7 Ways to Drive Results With Your Website, Print, and Email Marketing [Lunch & Learn]

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Join Delivra, The Jackson Group and Marketpath on Tuesday, June 20th for lunch, networking, and an opportunity to review best practices to increase your client engagement utilizing your website, print and email marketing campaigns.
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10 Rules to Increase Engagement with Website and Email Marketing [Webinar]

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Are you looking for ways to increase engagement with your website or email marketing? Register for our webinar on October 18.
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CIO Review Names Marketpath CMS one of Top Content Management Systems

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Marketpath is honored to have Marketpath CMS named as one of the industry’s Top Web Content Management Systems by CIOReview Magazine. Last month, CIO Review selected Marketpath as one of their 20 Most Promising Web Content Management Solution Providers.
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2016 Digital Marketing Checklist

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As you’re finally getting over your holiday hangover and becoming excited about a successful and prosperous 2016, it's a good time to take a step back and make sure you have all of our ducks in a row regarding our organization's digital marketing plans and strategy.
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Responsive Web Design & Social Marketing Elevate Indianapolis Cleaning Business

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Accent Maid Service is a professional cleaning service that has been around since 1982.  They offer home cleaning, condo and apartment cleaning, corporate housing cleaning, and commercial office cleaning. With a small team, Accent Maid creates a more personalized cleaning experience for the customer.  Accent Maid uses the best products including eco-friendly and green products. 
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Minimum Viable Website Marketing for a Small Business

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Small businesses have an especially difficult time providing their products and services while simultaneously marketing them. Day to day fires and calls to arms pull you away from important promotional activities that are the fuel for future business opportunities. 
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Your 2015 Content Strategy

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Now is the time to define your 2015 content strategy. Here are a few questions you should answer before the daily grind steals your time and attention.
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The Elusive Reality of Effective Website Marketing

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Improving website visibility requires more than a nice looking website. Most small businesses fail at driving traffic to their site and here's why.
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Website Magazine Names Marketpath One of Top Content Management Platforms

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Marketpath is honored to have Marketpath CMS, our easy to use website content management system, named as one of the industry’s Top Content Management Platforms by Website Magazine. Last month, Website Magazine selected Marketpath CMS as one of their Top 50 Web Content Management Platforms (CMS), based on extensive evaluation criteria. 
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Math vs. Content Problems – Why SEO as We Know it is Dead

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We attended Blog Indiana 2012 last week and came away with a new viewpoint on the SEO industry.  The two day conference was packed with speakers on various topics, but somehow, SEO always popped into their presentations.  The highlight, for me, was Doug Karr giving a presentation titled “SEO is Dead” (full slides at the link).  Even with the linkbait-like title, I was immediately intrigued with the topic.

SEO is Dead and DyingSEO, or the process of gaining higher rankings for search phrases, has been around for around for about 15 years.  It has gone through hundreds of changes as search engines have come and gone, evolved, and gotten smarter.  These changes always tweaked the algorithm in technical ways, but usually didn’t make drastic changes to the landscape of the web.  Well, in 2011 and 2012, Google has thrown the industry for a loop.  It has taken the complex math and statistics out of the equation and replaced it with something more transparent.  Keyword density, linking structure, link profiles, sculpting PageRank, and other statistic & math heavy topics are being discredited or even penalized.  Instead of focusing on what search engines want, these new changes seem to be moving search in a more traditional direction on the web.  SEO seems to be taking on characteristics of traditional marketing tactics.  Content creation, spreading the word socially, and converting visitors to customers are tactics of the new SEO.

Doug presented a lot of data around these changes and they all pointed in the same direction.  “SEO is not a math problem anymore, it’s a human problem.”

What does this mean for you?  Well, if you’re in charge of your SEO and you haven’t embraced the changes that were rolled out in the SPYW, Panda and Penguin changes, you’re already late to the party.  If you’ve contracted with an SEO firm to gain rankings and they haven’t talked about a content strategy, it’s time to evaluate your partnership with them.  It also means that if you’re a good marketer, but never really understood the link-building stuff, you’re in luck.  Do what you do best – update your site, create content, and share it to your audience. 

SEO isn’t dead, but it has definitely evolved once again.  This time, it has changed into something that more people are probably familiar with…good old, traditional marketing.    

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Online Marketing Strategy is Changing

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I’m not all together sure there is a more dynamic industry than online marketing.  With new tools, networks, tactics, and things to pay attention to debuting every day, how can anyone keep up?  It is a full-time job just staying on top of the latest trends, let alone rolling them out into a marketing campaign.  Gone are the days of launching a website with some keywords in the title tag and getting results.  Gone are the days of paying an SEO firm to "magically" gain rankings.  Gone are the days where this stuff was, well…easy. 

Change is Coming
​Are you ready for it?

It has finally happened.  Consumers are becoming smarter each and every day.  Search engines are changing ranking factors every month (or so it seems).  Has your business taken a step back and accessed strategy lately?  If not, you’re behind the curve.  Consumers are well aware of what SEO is.  Just ranking highly for competitive keywords doesn’t cut it anymore.  What value are you providing?  Why should I buy from you or fill out that form on your website?

You see, even SEO firms are realizing the game has changed…the good ones anyway.  Tactics are changing.  The process is much more client facing and transparent.  And guess what…that’s a good thing.  It means that anyone and everyone can play in this space now, not just the guy with the deepest pockets.  Being the richest doesn’t mean you’re the best or that you deserve to gain customers online.  You must provide value.  You must provide content.  And most of all, you must do it often.

Stop worrying about linking strategy and start worrying about creating link-worthy content.  Stop worrying about ranking for competitive keywords and start worrying about ranking for more keywords.  Stop worrying about the technical side of SEO and start worrying about providing value to your potential clients. 

If you can do these things, you’ll be able to absorb changes in online marketing industry.  You won’t have to worry about dropping one spot in Google for your top keyword.  You can get back to doing what you do best…serving your customers.

 

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Marketpath Featured on MTFW Marketing Podcast

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On June 20th, TJ Furman from Marketpath was lucky enough to join Lorraine Ball and Allison Carter of Roundpeg on their weekly small business marketing podcast, More Than a Few Words.  The topic was content creation strategies and why just having a blog might not be enough.

If you're struggling to come up with content ideas that are interesting, we urge you to listen to the podcast and formulate a plan.  You can listen to the full show here:
 

 

If you have any additional ideas or want to join the conversation, make sure to leave your comments below.

 

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Zen and the Art of Marketing Maintenance

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Maintenance is a topic that has been on my mind quite a bit lately. Maintenance of my lawn, house, vehicles, finances, children, diet, relationships, hair, and clothing are just a few of the things that must be maintained on a regular basis. Marketpath also requires regular maintenance of our finances, infrastructure, culture, client relationships, custom software, and much more. The key to success is maintaining items in small doses on a regular basis (i.e. performing small tasks here and there). The more consistent I am with regular maintenance, the more likely major problems won't appear. Failure to maintain each item in my life leads to neglect, which leads to me having to spend a lot more time and a lot more money which leads to great frustration.

Website marketing requires regular maintenancePart of the reason I've been contemplating the importance of maintenance is that I've been reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (yes, I stole the title for this post) - a philosophical novel that blends an attempt to define "Quality" and the importance of regular maintenance of our environment and our individual self.

Website marketing isn't all that different than anything else in our life. At Marketpath, we maintain our relationships with our customers and audience via our blogs, email blasts, social platforms, webinars, phone calls, and in-person meetings. I'm always pushing the importance of touch points and, if regularly maintained with good quality content, those touch points will result in a future sale or referral. Failure to regularly maintain  those touch points leads to a complete fall off of our audience engagement and an evaporation of sales and referrals.

Most marketers maintain a giant calendar with all the activity planned over the next few months. This is obviously important for the big items (trade shows and campaigns) but it is also import for the smaller, more easily maintained activities like blogging, social engagement, email sends, phone calls, etc. While these tasks may become slightly mundane or monotonous, they are still very important collectively over time.

If you fail to keep up your house it will fall into disrepair. Bringing it back to a normal state then requires more money, more time, and more frustration. Neglecting your website marketing efforts by not keeping a consistent schedule and constantly tweaking your message to keep your audience engaged will cause your marketing to fall into disrepair just as well. Then rebuilding the level of engagement you once had, or almost achieved, will require more time, more money, and more frustration. Keep it human, keep it consistent, and keep it meaningful.

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Are SaaS Content Management Systems Right for SMBs?

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We’ve covered this topic a bit before on our blog, but recent data that has come to light makes it worth revisiting.  The question is, being a small to medium sized business (SMB), is it time to take a hard look at software-as-a-service (SaaS) for your content management needs?  The short answer – yes.  The longer answer – SaaS CMS platforms have come a long way over the years and provide companies with flexibility and reliability that installed or open-source systems lack. 

Its Time For SaaS

It's Time to Consider SaaS CMS

According to CMSWire, it is estimated that 34% of SMBs will become first time adopters, or switch their CMS platforms, to SaaS systems.  This is a massive amount of companies that are looking to tap into the benefits of SaaS CMS platforms that are all willing to pay upwards of $500/month. 

A Few of these benefits include:

No Extra Strain on IT Staff

By tapping into the SaaS model, your IT department can unload tasks associated with web hosting, updates, server patches, product patches, and security flaws to the provider.  With SaaS, any problems that arise are on the shoulders of the provider to fix.

No Worries About Versioning

Ever worry that the outdated version of WordPress that your site is running has a security flaw?  How about that widget that you installed that stopped working with the latest update to your installed system?  With SaaS, these problems are a thing of the past, as updates are rolled out automatically and you don’t have to worry about versioning conflicts.

Easier Budgeting

Open Source or Installed options can often times lead to unexpected bills and hourly charges for updates/fixes.  With SaaS, the monthly expense that you agreed to pay covers all of this.  No longer do you have to worry about budget wrecking invoices.

SMBs are always looking for ways to compete with the “big boys” that have seemingly unlimited resources.  Over the past few years, the adoption of the SaaS model within email marketing, CRM, and social communications (among other verticals) has been huge.  SaaS Content Management systems can (and do) provide the same flexibility, freedom, and power to the SMB market that these early adopted verticals have already shown.

If you’re in the market for a new website content management system, you owe it to yourself to take a serious look at a SaaS platform.     



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Creating Compelling Content

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Here at Marketpath, we help companies redesign and launch brand new websites with an easy-to-use content management system on the backend.  One challenge that we often run into, however, is gathering compelling content from our clients.  This is a widespread problem, not limited to just Marketpath’s client base, but to anyone that is redeveloping their online presence.  The dreaded “okay, now what do we say?” question always seems to arise.

Boring Content
Does your content make me want to do this?

Unless you’re paying an outside PR firm or freelance copywriter to write your website copy, it’s going to be left to you and your internal staff.  Once you come to this realization, and a few weeks pass by while you’re waiting for someone to step up and write something awesome,  you’re going to become desperate.  I’d be willing to bet that you’re going to start looking at your old website copy, talking yourself into the “well, it’s not that bad” mindset.  You’ll look at old marketing documents, old sales materials, and start sending it to your website development firm.  If this sounds familiar, I am here to urge you to stop.  Old content on a new site isn’t going to help any more than old content on an old site.  So, what to do?  Here are a few steps to help:

Change your tone of voice

People buy from people.  Stop using buzzwords that you’ve become so accustomed to because they don’t sound natural.  Write like you’re talking to someone you’ve known for years and see what you end up with.  Obviously this depends on the industry (although I always err towards the side of being casual), but humor doesn’t necessarily need to be off limits for your website copy either.  Again, show who you really are, let your personality come through, because after all, people are more likely to do business with people they enjoy working with.

Stop talking about you

I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but talking about you too much on your own website isn’t going to help.  Sure, your company’s history might have a place somewhere on the site, but the whole website shouldn’t be about your mission statement.  Realizing that visitors to your site have a problem that needs solved is the first step to this piece.  Be specific to the problems that you can alleviate.  This will help the visitor feel a bit more engaged, as they see their problems being addressed on your website.

Use a variety of content types

Some people love reading, others don’t.  Some love videos, others work in offices where their computers might not have sound.  Some love images, but not everyone is a picture person.  Realizing this and incorporating a wide variety of content types on your site can help appeal to the masses.  Static pages, blogs, videos, and image galleries all appeal to different parts of the brain.

What are your tips for creating content that is a little more engaging?  Do you have any secrets worth sharing?  Comment below!
 

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Online Tutoring Service Selects Marketpath for Web Content Management

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Mr. T's Online Math & SAT Tutoring
Mr. T's Online Tutoring recently launched their first website, selecting Marketpath for web content management, website design, and search engine optimization (SEO) services.  According to Chris Travers, Mr. T's founder, he selected Marketpath based on Marketpath's expertise with small business websites and the ease of use of Marketpath CMS, their web content management solution.  "Marketpath made it simple for us to launch our first website, providing the service and guidance needed to intoduce our brand to students in both North and South America," said Mr. Travers.

Mr. T's Online Tutoring provides personalized, convenient and and affordable math, SAT, and Spanish tutoring, all online for high school and junior high school students.

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User generated marketing

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There is a certain level of pleasure that comes from making new connections about our history and the social web. Most people think this whole socialization thing on the Internet is new and sometimes it takes a short post by a well known Author to say otherwise. The only part that's new is the Internet. The socialization piece has always been around.

Seth Godin's post today is titled "The most important page on the web is the page you build yourself." It's about user generated content and the demise of mainstream mass media. Read it. It's short.

I recently had a meeting with an auto dealership and they discussed putting together a series of videos that would talk about the great features and conveniences of the cars they sell. After much debate and discussion about how much it would cost (tens of thousands) to produce and edit the videos, I stood up and suggested they have their customers produce the videos for them. First, it's free. Second, it's more honest and believable if someone other than the dealer tells the story. 

We're seeing this more and more in marketing where customers produce their own content. Whether it be interactions with others by commenting on a blog, guest blogging, writing product reviews, or producing videos, the job of the marketer is changing. No longer is their sole responsibility to write, design, and produce every bit of content to be puked out to prospects and customers. Marketers now have to build the playground where their constituents can voice themselves and then coordinate those interactions without intruding upon their freedom to contribute.

It's not simple, yet. It's a lot more work while we still hold on to the reigns of the past. The biggest challenge is designing and building the infrastructure that allows your customers and prospects to contribute and then making sure it gets used to its fullest. Once it is built, though, that job takes on a different shape. Customers interact, customers promote (if what you're selling is any good), and customers provide you a much deeper insight into your products and services than you would have ever had before.

Just don't expect that telling your customers what you want them to hear will hold water much longer. As soon as one of your competitors begins letting them into their social community, your legitimacy will begin to fade.

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CMS Protip #1 - Automate Homepage Content

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Over the next few weeks, I will be quickly covering what we are calling "CMS Protips".  This series will feature, in no particular order, a list of tips and tricks to get the most out of your content management system and your website.  Let's get this started! 

Protip #1 - Automate your Homepage's Content

Since your homepage is most likely the most important page on your website, automating a much of the content as possible makes a lot of sense.  This automated content can consist of blog feeds, upcoming events, news, social media content, or any other type of data that may be useful to your visitors.

RSS Feed
What Data can you Automate?

Your homepage should reflect the most current message from your company, not the same "Company Overview" paragraph that hasn't changed in years.  This up-to-date content should drive traffic to inner pages of your site where the user is given the opportunity to convert to a customer.  

Automating your homepage's content gives three distinct benefits:

1. Cleaner Overall Look and Feel After Each Update

Pulling in data and formatting it with the already existing content will ensure that the look and feel of your website is kept intact each time your homepage is updated.  Manually editing this content can lead to errors, extra line spaces, and other minor issues that can decrease the effectiveness of your site.

2. Easier Content Management

Managing your content in one place in your CMS and having that propagate throughout your site is the optimal setup for any content manager.  Changing one piece of content will be reflected in each part of the site that uses that data. 

3. More Consistent Usability

Your website visitors will appreciate your website staying consistent throughout their visit.  This is especially helpful if your website has a large ratio of return visitors as they know what information to expect and where to find it quickly.

Obviously there may be some pieces of your homepage that cannot be automated (image galleries, for example).  When you're dealing with one of these, just make sure you're paying special attention when you are updating them.

Stay tuned for Protip #2!
 

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Getting Started with Content Creation in 3 Easy Steps

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For small-to-medium sized B2B companies without dedicated marketing departments, content creation can be a daunting task. You’ve been hearing that content is king for years when it comes to search engine optimization, but you just can’t quite put together a process for creating engaging content.  You may feel like your product or service is self-explanatory enough and doesn’t need to be discussed.  You may feel that your product or service isn’t sexy enough to have a blog post written about it.  Whatever the reason (or excuse), content creation  just isn’t being done…which is hurting your bottom line.  Here are a few easy-to-follow steps that we use at Marketpath to help add to our blog:   

Thinking Man
Look Familiar to your Current Process?

Step 1:  Commit to a content creation schedule

Without a schedule, the blog becomes a backseat passenger again to everything else that your day-to-day requires.  Start small – 1 blog post a week for the first 6 weeks and stick to it.  Block out time on your calendar for it.  Commit to it.  Once you have proven to yourself that you’re capable of putting together a blog post, it will become easier…I promise.

Step 2:  Utilize questions from sales meetings as blog post topics

Here is a little secret – if your prospective client has asked you a question in a sales meeting, there is a good chance that he/she has also Googled that same question.  What if you had written a blog that addressed that concern or topic and that customer finds your site?  You’re one step closer to a sale.  There is no secret that people a searching for answers to their questions long before they are ever picking up the phone to find a solution provider – they may not even know your company exists to solve their problem.  Sales questions always make great blog topics.

Step 3:  Write your ideas down as they happen

What a novel idea, right?  But how many times have you had a great idea (for anything, not just a blog post), but don’t record it somehow…pen, paper, voice recording on your iPhone, email, etc?  Once blogging becomes a part of your weekly schedule (because you’re sticking to Step 1, right?), blog topics will begin to pop in your head at random times during the day.  You can never predict when this will happen…Todd Henry, author of The Accidental Creative, has a great perspective on the idea that you can’t force yourself to come up with ideas…it just doesn’t work that way…So when it happens, write it down.

Now, these three steps won’t necessarily make you the next best-selling author, or a top 50 blogger, but they will help you get started into the world of content creation.  Keep in mind that each post should be engaging, and provide value to the reader.  If you’re struggling with this sort of thing, it might be time to reach out to a professional new media agency for some help.

 

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Social Media is Not an Acquisition Tool

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Social media is not an acquisition toolI'm sure this topic is going to rattle the cages of some self-proclaimed social media gurus, or social media ninjas (as some call themselves). There was a time, just a couple years ago, when many of these social media consultants proclaimed that traditional marketing and advertising was dead and that social media was the new way to reach your target audience. They were wrong.

We've had several years to gain insight into the power of social media and the best way to use it. What we've learned is that it isn't about customer acquisition. It's more about connecting with and supporting your existing customer base.

We are in a world where big corporations can take on a more human role by distributing connections to customers throughout their company and not leaving this job to just the marketing department, or just customer support. If you've never read Jay Baer's blog Convince and Convert, you should. One of his most recent posts is about using social channels for engagement and not blasting out more spam that  will simply be ignored.

If you're using Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ to only blast out deals and promotions, then you're blowing it. But if you're using these social channels to connect and interact with your customer community in a way that engages them as more than a customer then you are working the right angle. I'm not going to get into what you should be posting about but just keep in mind that your promotions and deals are ok as long as they aren't the bulk of your conversation. One quick way to get ignored or dropped is to come across as always trying to get the next sale.

Perhaps you're thinking, "But ACME Corporation (fill in the company name) gained 43 new customers with a social media campaign last summer!" ok, I doubt it, but let's say this was true. Just because your son has a swoopy haircut doesn't mean he's going to be the next Justin Bieber. Chances of that are next to nothing. And the chances of your company successfully acquiring a whole swath of new customers from your social media efforts is also as abysmal. Can it happen? Sure! But probably not in the way you hope.

Social media, more and more, is recognized as a powerful way to connect with your customers in ways never before possible. Use it as a way to engage people who already know and trust you and you'll get a whole lot more bang for your buck.

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5 Lesser-Known Benefits of Software-as-a-Service

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Since the idea of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) has been around for quite a few years, the benefits have become pretty well known.  The SaaS proponents stand behind the lower cost of entry, the speed of implementation and availability of the software (not installed).  I wanted to dig a little deeper and take a look at some of the lesser known benefits of the Software-as-a-Service model.

No IT Staff Necessary

No IT Staff NecessaryMany small to medium sized business don't have internal IT staff, which makes them a perfect candidate for SaaS adoption.  In the world of web content management systems, an often-used alternative to SaaS is the Open Source platform (Joomla, Drupal, Wordpress ,etc).  While these programs have their place in the market, they are often written for "geeks" by "geeks".  We have helped numerous companies and organizations migrate away from these platforms after they have become frustrated with their supposedly "easy-to-use" open source system. Without internal IT staff, simplicity should become a major factor in the decision making process.  

Frees Up IT Staff Time

If you do have the luxury of having an in-house IT staff, they are probably strapped for time and bogged down with multiple duties.  Off-loading some of the workload of maintaining a web hosting server and a website is a quick, and usually cost-effective way, to make your IT staff more effective.  Utilizing an easy-to-use, SaaS content management system allows your marketing staff to take control of the most powerful marketing tool at your disposal, your website.  Keeping your IT staff out of your marketing efforts is essential to your online success. 

Eliminates Frustrating Maintenance

SaaS products can be quickly and easily patched and upgraded by the company responsible for the software, eliminating time-consuming maintenance for the customer.  Because SaaS products are built around one central core, applying a patch to it remedies any problems that may be occurring for all of the users.  There is no need to worry about software versioning, expensive updates, or in-house hardware problems.   

Less Learning Curve (Typically)

Easier Learning CurveBecause SaaS products are web-based, users typically latch onto them faster than installed software.  We all use the Internet every day, whether it be for browsing, shopping, or connecting with people, we have all become accustomed to web-based interfaces.  SaaS products piggy-back off this familiar look and feel, making the learning curve much less intimidating.

Never Out of Date

Subscribing to a Software-as-a-Service platform grants you a free pass to each and every update that is released for the software.  You can rest assured that you are getting the latest technology each and every time that you log onto the system.  This allows you to focus on completing your tasks, not wondering if the system will work.

Which SaaS products do you utilize?  What are some of the pros (or cons) that you see in the service offering? 





 

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Google +1 Coming to an Algorithm Near You

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Google +1Earlier this week, Wired.com ran a story about Google exploring the integration of the +1 button data into their search ranking algorithm.  While this is something that most of us in the industry have expected since the launch of the +1 button, it is the first time (to my knowledge) that Google has confirmed it.  


This isn't the first time, however, that Google has looked at social signals as ranking influencers.  They have already begun to use the data received from Twitter to help determine rankings for websites.  Facebook, on the other hand, hasn't allowed Google to have access to its data, which may be one of the reasons why the +1 button was created.  

So, is this Google's plan to force everyone to utilize the +1 button?

In a way, yes.  Google's never-ending search for data has led them to the social sphere.  With people constantly tweeting, liking, and +1'ing, Google can gain more insight into the quality of the websites they are ranking.  Hopefully, as the social influences show their importance, Google will begin to tweak the amount of importance they place on links, especially coming from lower PageRank sites that run rampant with link spam.  

Is this a perfect solution?

No.  Google will need to combat the creation of fake profiles used for +1'ing purposes.  They have already shown their intentions for their new social network, Google+, by allowing users to report fake profiles, but this system may need overhauled if the +1 button becomes a major influencer to their rankings.  Black hat SEO's will relentlessly attempt to scam the system, just like some link building services do today.

Lots of Ranking Factors
Keep in mind there are lots of ranking factors, not just the +1

Where does this leave you, the site owner?

Google changes their algorithm all the time.  Most of these changes are minor, but some aren't.  At the end of the day, you always know that Google is trying to rank the highest quality sites for the terms they deserve to rank for.  Add relevant content to your site, interact genuinely through social media, create landing pages for marketing campaigns, and make sure your website can convert visitors to customers.  Remember, you are the expert in your industry, act like it...but in the mean time I'd go ahead and add Google's +1 button to be safe.

Here are the instructions on how to do it: http://www.google.com/webmasters/+1/button/         

 

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4 Reasons You Need a Mobile Website

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

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

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

 

So why should your organization develop a mobile site?

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

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

2) The needs & behavior of a mobile web user are different from a traditional Internet user

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

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

Mobile Websites and Mobile Marketing3) Mobile internet use is growing rapidly!

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

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

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

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

4) It’s fairly easy to create a mobile website

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

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

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

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Marketpath Named 2011 Innovation of the Year Finalist

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

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

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

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