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How Easy Is Marketpath CMS? Add a Video to Your Site in Minutes!

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This is our second post in our “How Easy is Marketpath CMS” series.  Last week, our video showed you how simple it is to add SEO friendly images to your website using our easy CMS.  This week we’ll demonstrate how effortless it is to add a video to your website using our web content management system for small businesses.  

 
The best way to enhance your organization’s online marketing is to give your team a solution that makes managing and marketing your website easy.  With Marketpath, you don’t need technical experts adding unnecessary time and cost to your website updates.  Instead, your marketing team will be able to proactively add content to improve your site’s SEO results, enhance customer engagement, and increase leads.

Stayed tuned for our next installment to see how you can add an entire new page to your website in just minutes!  Until then, Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah.
 

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Proprietary vs. Open Source CMS: Part 2 of 3

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In the previous article, I laid out for you what open source CMS and proprietary CMS software is. In this article, we'll get further in depth into open source CMS detailing the benefits and drawbacks of the system. 
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Proprietary vs. Open Source CMS: Part 1 of 3

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There are hundreds of content management platforms available divided into proprietary and open sourced software. So the question arises, what do you choose? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each so you can decide what is best for your business.
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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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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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What is the Value of Your Time? The Case against Open-Source CMS

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The debate has raged on for years now about the value of an open-source Content Management System (CMS) versus the on-demand Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) CMS model. Yes, Wordpress, which holds a large chunk of the market, is free. Anyone can pick a template and toss something up on the web. And everyone likes things that are free, right? Perhaps, but you also get what you pay for.

Marketpath CMS - Efficient and Effective Website MarketingThe concept of a free CMS is a bit misleading. Yes, it’s true that open-source code is developed by a community of people who offer it to users at no charge. But just because a technology is available doesn’t mean you’ll know what to do with it.

Suppose you get through the basic steps of getting a site up and running. Now what? Who do you turn to when you have a question? What happens when it’s time to update the source code? Free technologies don’t come with award-winning 24/7 customer service departments. Your likely options are suspect online documentation and Wikipedia. Not too comforting. How much time do you want to spend digging for answers? What’s that time worth to you?

Take the lack of help desk support a step further. Basic technical support is one thing; get hit by a virus or hacked, and you’re looking at a whole other set of problems. Security should be a primary concern for anyone carving out online real estate. Open source plug-ins can solve some security issues, but they’re not a guarantee. Worst case scenario, you get bugged, information is compromised, and the site comes crashing down. Again, who do you call? How much time do want to spend trying to fix the problem?

How about new functionality?  With open-source systems you can find free plug-ins that add new capabilities to your site.  But you’ll need someone to install them and hopefully understand them from a technical perspective.  With Marketpath CMS, upgrades are included with your subscription and you receive them automatically – no hassle. 

Take a few moments to consider the overall potential for frustration. If you’re a business owner, your focus needs to be building the company - and your website should be a strategic component of your plan to do so. You can’t afford to be bogged down in technical minutia. Marketpath’s on-demand, custom CMS eliminates these concerns so you make the most of your time, increase revenue, and reduce costs.

Contact us today to learn more about our content management, web design and website development services..

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Startups Have it Easy, Sort of

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These days it's a lot easier to start a software company than it used to be. With the plethora of cloud services available at the click of a mouse companies can focus less on infrastructure logistics and more on their product. In this way, startups have it easy.

Before I continue I have a confession to make - Marketpath is not a startup.

Wow! That felt good! You don't know how long I've been holding on to that secret.

Ok, so maybe you read the about us page and you already knew that. We've been around since 2001.

We've claimed that we're like a startup but, in reality, that is far from the truth. We are established, healthy, and revenue positive. But along with being healthy we have our share of legacy systems with legacy problems. More specifically, we have a lot of old equipment running our infrastructure.

Wayback

In 2001, we purchased our first server. It was a Dell Poweredge 2500. I remember, because I bought it and was excited about the possibilities for that powerful server. General websites and web applications were a piece of cake. So, we added an email server and database to it. Then, over the next several years, we bought another server and then another. Initially, we only managed the servers. But then it changed.

In 2004, we moved to nFrame, a data center in Carmel, IN. Since then, we've had to buy all the firewalls, routers, switches, backup devices, metered PDU's, and all the other fun that comes along with managing a SaaS infrastructure. And that's just the hardware. There was a slew of software for everything from email to backups to databases.

For a small resourceful staff this was one heck of a burden, especially when things went wrong. We had to worry about single points of failure in infrastructure, server hard drives, backplanes, power supplies, fans, memory, SCSI cards, NIC's, and many, many other intricate and complicated devices going kaput. And then there was the software maintenance.

Me and other staff have spent many long nights standing above the air conditioning panel right in front of our rack. Luckily, in all these years, our longest outage for any website was limited to about 4 hours. And that's because when the you-know-what hits the fan, we got very creative.

Why Startups Have it Easy

Startups don't have to worry about infrastructure - at least in the same sense that Marketpath and every other software company that's been around for more than five years has had to. Infrastructure is a huge resource suck. Proper planning, implementation, and maintenance should be full time jobs. When everything seemed to be humming along nicely, some small issue was festering behind the scenes getting ready to rear its ugly face.

Startups can focus on building software and leave the infrastructure to the experts. Now there's Amazon Web ServicesMicrosoft AzureRackspaceBluelock, and many more infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) companies. These companies handle all the gory details and monitoring of core hardware devices. They provide virtual servers and other services that can be plugged into easily. 

Now, instead of having to high-tail it over to the local data center, customers simply jump on their iPad, launch the web portal and restart a server or provision more. Only the exact infrastructure necessary is deployed. In the past, we had to buy more hardware than we actually needed so we could scale up to meet demand. There were intricate formulas (that I never used) to calculate capacity needed now vs. capacity needed down the road.

Startups have this provisioning capability at their fingertips and can dedicate their time to building their business and building great software.

Don't get me wrong. Established companies have this too and often implement new projects in virtual environments. It's the legacy software that is the slow moving snail of adoption.

Virtual Marketpath

At Marketpath, we began our virtualization quest last summer. We implemented our internal project management and support system which was a simple database and web application. Not too bad.

Since, we've been 

 

 

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How Easy is Marketpath CMS? SEO Tools make Optimization Simple!

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Your website isn’t maximizing its value if no one can find it- right?  That’s why Marketpath includes on-site search engine optimization (SEO) services with every website design we provide our clients.  But optimizing a new site is only the beginning.  To improve your rankings with search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo, you’ll need to have a living, breathing site that continuously provides new, relevant content for your target audience. 

Marketpath makes it easy to add content to your site, but that’s just the start.  Marketpath CMS also provides SEO tools that allow you, the non-technical user, to easily optimize your new content (pages, images, videos) for on-page search optimization.  What our short video to see how easy you can optimize new content on your site.     

Stayed tuned for our next installment to see how you can easily leverage Marketpath Blogging to create engaging, SEO friendly blogs.

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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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Migrating to a New CMS

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Migrating Content Management SystemsAre you starting to outgrown your current web content management system or blogging platform? Migrating your website or blog to a new content management system can be an intimidating task, depending on how much content your current site has.  But no matter what the reason for the move (capability, cost, support, etc.), there are a few steps that you should ensure are handled carefully while performing the migration.  First things first:

Get Your Content

Whether this means getting into a database and downloading all of the previous content or posts, or copying the content manually, don’t shut the old site down until you have a copy of everything that you’ve done in the past. 

Grab Your Old Sitemap

You may be building a website from scratch, so a lot of these pages might not be getting transferred to the new system.  That’s okay, this step will make sense, I promise.

Set up New Pages/Posts

Within the new content management system, build out your website like its being built from scratch.  When naming pages, consider the SEO value of each page name (be descriptive, but to the point).  Copy the old blog posts into the new system and take note of how the URL is generated. (www.URL.com/blog/blog-post-title)

Set Up Redirects

This is probably the most important, and often times painstaking piece of migrating to a new CMS.  Each blog post from the old system should be set up as a redirect to the new URL. For instance, if your old blog created URLs like this: blog.URL.com/blog-post-title, but the new CMS creates them like this: www.URL.com/blog/blog-post-title, then you want to make sure you redirect the old URL to the new URL as to not lose any link value.  URLs from the old site (you grabbed that old sitemap, right?) should be setup as redirects to new, corresponding pages on the new site. 

Migrating systems can be a daunting task.  Have a plan before moving forward with any content migration to make sure each detail is preserved, and a whole bunch of 404’s aren’t created in the process.       



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CMS ProTip #2 - Accessible On-Page SEO Elements

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On-Page SEOWhile this is a common feature of the majority of content management systems these days, if your current CMS doesn’t allow you to modify certain on-page elements, it may be time to start shopping around.  Each page within your site should be crafted and optimized with the overall goal of higher rankings and increased traffic in mind.  Here are a few elements to check:

Title Tags

Title tags are probably the easiest, yet most important, element of any page to modify with most Content Management Systems.  Each page within your site should have a well-crafted title tag that you (or your web developer) have written.  Alternatively, in the case of larger sites, or e-commerce sites with lots of products, the content management system should be able to help generate very-friendly tags based upon the page or product name and the overall brand of the website. 

Meta Descriptions

Meta descriptions help increase the click-through rate for search engine listings.  Any given CMS should allow you to modify each page’s meta description within your site.  These are great places for a few quick sentences involving key phrases you’re targeting and a call to action to entice the user to click.

H1 Tags

A good CMS will allow you to simply highlight and style any text within your site with an H, or heading, tag.  An H1 tag should be thought of as the headline of the page and should directly relate to the content on that particular page.  Styling this text should happen automatically, making the job of the content creator much easier.

File Names and Alt Tags

Within your CMS, you’re going to be uploading content.  This content should retain the original file name once upload (assuming that you named your images and videos with applicable key phrases).  Also, when inserting an image onto a page, the option to add Alt Image Text should be presented.  This text will help your odds of being relevant for Google Image searches.

Automated Elements

The elements that should be automated within your CMS for on-page SEO purposes are things like the URL structure, XML Sitemap, and robots.txt file.  The URL that is generated for any given page should be friendly, without creating session IDs, or other unnecessary snippets.  The XML Sitemap and robots.txt file are pretty much strictly for search engines and automatically generated by your CMS.

There are other elements of on-page SEO that are important (content creation, internal linking structure, etc.), but those are at the heart of every CMS.  The elements listed above are extremely important and shouldn’t be a daunting task if you’ve chosen the right CMS for the job.  If you're a bit new to SEO, feel free to download our SEO Whitepaper free of charge.

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How Easy Is Marketpath CMS? Add an Image to Your Site in less than Two Minutes!

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Marketpath CMS was built on the foundation of simplicity.  Everything we do is geared towards helping small businesses and organizations to be both more effective and efficient running their website marketing.  In our opinion, the best way to do that is to make things easy!

That’s why anyone can manage and market their website using Marketpath CMS, our easy to use web content management solution. With Marketpath, you don’t need any technical expertise or knowledge of HTML.  Anyone can successfully market their website, adding new pages, blogging, inserting images and videos, managing event and calendars, creating web forms, surveys, and landing pages.  You can even manage meta data to drive enhanced SEO rankings!  And the best part is that all the above tasks can be done in literally minutes. 

Starting today, and over the next few months, we'll show you just how easy it is to market your website using Marketpath CMS.  Watch our quick video and see how you can add search friendly images to your website in minutes!  


Stayed tuned for our next installment to see how you can easy manage videos using Marketpath CMS.
 
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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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5 Elements of Great Website Design

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A lot of times, before we can implement our content management system, our clients ask us to redesign their website.  While we are always happy to provide this service to our clients, I wanted to cover a few of the aspects of what makes a website design successful.  It goes far beyond pretty pictures and colors and dives into what truly makes your business work, focusing on your business goals, objectives and visitor behavior. Here are five items to take into consideration before and during your website redesign process.

Website Design is a Process
Website Design is a Hands-on Process

1. Clearly Branded and Aligned with Business Goals

All too often a website can become outdated and out of line with the company that it represents.  As your business grows, matures, and inevitably changes, your website should reflect those business goals immediately.  Keep the focus of your website on your primary offerings, which will help clearly communicate your position, your brand, and your value proposition.

Tips:

Your logo should be visible on every page of your site, preferably in the same location (and linked back to your homepage)

Each business goal should have a clearly labeled section of the website

Consistently use the same tag lines that are familiar to your brand

2. Easily Used by First Time Visitor

Using an analytics tool, such as Google Analytics, you should be able to see how many of your visitors are new, and how many are return visitors.  Keeping your websites design focus on simplicity and usability will help the first-timer navigate your website and hopefully find what they are looking for (contact info, product info, service offerings, etc).  When in doubt, subscribe to the KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid). 

Tips:

This can be difficult, but try to take yourself out of the day to day mindset of your current schedule.  You know everything about your company, but your visitor (especially first-timer) doesn’t.  Simple language, clearly labeled sections of the website, and easy to navigate menus can all help increase the value of the user experience.  If you can say what you need to say in a sentence rather than a paragraph, it might be helpful to do so.

3. Designed with Conversion in Mind

Today’s websites are more powerful than ever when it comes to increasing sales and leads.  Your website’s design is an integral part in getting people from “website visitor” to “prospective buyer”.  To do this, each page should have its own conversion element that allows a user to interact with your website and take the next step in the business relationship.

Tips:

Keep the conversion elements above the fold.  If they are in plain view, they are more likely to be clicked on.

Use big buttons and bright (complimentary) colors to attract attention

Keep your online forms simple (asking for too much info is intrusive)

4. Search Engine Optimization Kept At Forefront

On-page search engine optimization (SEO) is important, not only for search engines, but for users.  On-page SEO can be looked at as the foundation of organization of your site.  Clearly labeling pages with Title Tags and nicely designed H1 tags can help users flow through to their desired content, increasing the amount of page views and reducing bounce rate at the same time. 

Tips:

Utilize text based menus (not images)

Clearly label each page with Title Tags, H1 Tags, Meta Descriptions, and Alt Text

Don’t rely on Flash, as search engines and mobile devices don’t play well with it

Think of your website in an outline format and mimic that same page structure and hierarchy for your sitemap 

5. Professionalism

This should go without saying, but your website often times crafts the first impression of your company.  If you haven’t looked at redesigning your site in a couple of years, put yourself in a prospective buyer's shoes and visit your site.  Would you buy from you?  Your website should be impressive, clearly state your message, and be up to date with the latest information.  What does your current website say about your company? 

Tips:

Utilize a professional graphic designer, not your brother’s wife’s 2nd cousin that took a class one time.  Just keep in mind that you are going to get what you pay for.

Employ the use of a content management system that allows you to keep your website up to date without relying on a technical person



 

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Steve Jobs: 1955 - 2011

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As a high school junior in 1985, my family purchased our first computer, a Macintosh.  Little did I know at that time that twenty-six years later, I’d be writing a blog (heck the word didn’t exist yet) about the Mac and the founder of the company that introduced it, Apple.  Since that time, Steve Jobs personally has had a hand in revolutionizing the world of technology as well as at least five different industries:

  • computers - Apple II (1977) & Mac (1984) personal computers, Mouse (1984) , iPad (2010)
  • phone – iPhone (2007)
  • music – iPod (2001)
  • retail – iTunes Store (2001), Apple’s App Store (2008)
  • motion pictures – Pixar (1979, purchased by Steve Jobs in 1986)

Steve Jobs was a visionary and one of America’s true innovators.  And whether or not you feel he should be mentioned in the same class as Thomas Edison or alongside great American entrepreneurs like Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, or Walt Disney, it is clear he had a huge impact on our culture and our world.  I know he had a significant impact on my life.

In the past decade or so, my own family has grown up on Apple products that have been favorites on Christmas morning.  But it is still fun to think back to my first Apple purchase.  I don’t remember a lot about that first product, but I do remember using that Mac to create fake IDs with my brothers and our friends.  We were shocked by how easy it was.  Thanks Steve.  

Steve Jobs In Tribute to Steve Jobs:

"Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become."

- Steve Jobs, 2005 Stanford Commencement

The Crazy One – Steve Job’s Tribute (1 minute)

Wired Video Tribute (3 minutes)

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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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Is Your Form Killing Your Conversion Rate?

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Simple Web FormThe purpose of most well-crafted business websites is to convert visitors into sales leads (or customers, if your site is ecommerce). There are many aspects that go into engaging your website's visitors and convincing them to give you their information. Some of these aspects are easy to modify and test, like the placement, size and color of call to action buttons. Others are a little more difficult and costly, such as an overall website design change.  However, the element that your site relies on to convert visitors to leads, the form itself, may be hurting your website's ability to do its job.  Is your form actually discouraging visitors from filling it out?  Here are a few elements of your web form to check.

Too Much Required Information

New visitors to your website don't necessarily trust you yet, so don't expect them to give you the keys to the castle.  Chances are you don't need to know all of the information about a potential customer to start a conversation about your product or service.  If you can get away with just learning their name and email address, perhaps a phone number, then go for it. 

Too Many Form Fields

Even if you're not requiring each form field to be filled out to submit the form, seeing a large form can be discouraging.  Does knowing a client's location really help you prior to speaking with them?  If not, eliminate the field all together and see if the amount of submissions increases.  Try this with other fields that may not be necessary (Fax number, address, multiple phone numbers, title, etc.).

Budget/Invasive Questions

Eliminate the "How much is your budget for this project" question.  Yes, qualifying leads is important; however, this goes back to the trust issue of your website and a potential client.  Chances are they don't want to tell you how much money they have until they've at least talked with you.  There is a good chance your budget question has discouraged a qualified lead from contacting you. Check out this case study done by ClickTale that shows a 20% form abandonment rate due to a budget question.

The takeaway from this article should be a desire to test new formats for your web collect forms to increase conversion rates.  Test, analyze, rinse and repeat until you have found the perfect balance for your web form. 

Do you have experience testing your web forms?  If so, what are your favorite tools?  Leave your feedback in the comments below.     



 

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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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