Responsive Web Design
Responsive Web Design
Nearly 20 percent of web traffic comes through mobile devices. As smart phones become even more ubiquitous, that number will only increase. As a result, companies are compelled to create mobile-friendly versions of their websites. The debate that’s arisen from this growth is whether an organization should use responsive web design – creating a site that works similarly on a PC and a mobile device – or opt to create a dedicated mobile site.
What’s the Difference?
A responsive website is exactly how it sounds: It shifts and scales based on the vehicle the user is employing to see it. Large desktop monitor or small phone – the design is fluid and, well, responsive. A mobile site is built within a mobile framework. It’s a custom development designed to be experienced specifically on a smartphone. So how do you choose the right option for your company’s mobile presence?
The Case for Responsive Design
The number one reason to opt for responsive web design is overall simplicity. Regardless of where the customer decides to look at your site, they’ll be able to see it as it was intended. On the developer side, responsive sites, though more complex to create up front, are also easier to maintain down the road because the code doesn’t need to be modified to fit various formats.
Responsive design is also the preferred choice of Google, so that’s a big plus, too.
For a content-heavy site, responsive design may be the best solution. You create your content once and can publish it everywhere. You also spend less time on mobile-specific development because the site is built to accommodate large and small screens, and you have more time for content development.
We recently developed a micro-site for KSM Consulting (www.ksmconsulting.com/careers) and wanted the same basic content to be visible on all devices. But we also wanted a positive user experience, where the content was easy to read, regardless of whether you viewed it from a desktop or a mobile phone. Responsive was the perfect approach.
The Case for Dedicated Mobile Sites
Consider your average customer. Do they expect a custom experience when accessing your site via mobile? If so, a dedicated mobile site may be the better option. One example of this would be if the primary function of the site, or portions of the site, is meant to act as an application or connect with separate applications. On Amazon, for example, the primary action is for a user to purchase items while housing secure customer data. A native app would be able to integrate directly with a user's personal mobile device, which is easier for the end user if they want to securely open the app and buy something.
Another reason you might go with a dedicated mobile site, would be when special custom features or advertising are required. Responsive design sites typically don’t allow for the inclusion of advertising banners or other custom features. If graphic calls to action are a necessary aspect of your marketing plan, a dedicated mobile website is a wise choice.
The biggest reason to go with a dedicated mobile site is the user experience. Are you content with providing visitors the same interactive result no matter how they navigate to your site, or should the mobile experience be different fundamentally because of your brand or a unique service offering? If the latter, the choice is clear.
A final reason (and probably the most common) to go with a dedicated mobile site, might be that your business already has a well-designed website (non-responsive) and isn’t ready for a full site redesign. In that case, it may make more sense to develop a simple mobile site than trying to fit a responsive approach into a site that wasn’t designed that way. In some cases, this is a more economical approach, until your next major redesign.
Still Not Sure Which Approach Is Best?
Are you trying to determine the web design strategy that’s right for your business? Contact Marketpath today to learn more about our mobile design capabilities. Click here to see some of our latest responsive web designs and mobile web development projects.
Why the Responsive Design Trend Is Becoming the New Industry Standard
According to SearchEngineWatch.com, mobile Internet usage increased by over 73% in the year 2014 and now exceeds PC Internet usage for the first time in history. This means that businesses should consider responsive web design as a solution to ensuring their website is compatible across any and all devices.
Responsive Web Design is often misunderstood as a term to describe any website that appears “mobile-friendly”, but there are many differences to an actual responsive site and a site that merely appears mobile-friendly. Responsive websites use one single HTML code that fluidly changes the size of the site using CSS as the size of the user’s device changes. The key difference is in the amount of HTML codebases: a responsive site will always have only one, while a dynamically-served site will have multiple codebases that a server will choose from depending on the size of the device detected.
With so many mobile users in the world, it is critical to have a website that responds to the variable screen size rather than scaling down to a lower resolution. A website must appear beautiful on all kinds of devices - from a 50” television to a tablet, a laptop and every phone in between. There are many strategies for developing a mobile-friendly website, but choosing a responsive web design offers additional benefits that increase user-experience and aid in business:
- Flexible web page rendering: the user will always experience a 100% width website that is adapted to their particular screen size. There will never be a need to zoom on a responsive website because the site has already adapted to the user.
- Search engine optimization (SEO): Google, the largest search engine to date, dictates what search engine optimization practices websites need to adhere to in order to be found. Google has clearly indicated that it prefers responsive web designs to mobile templates because there is a single website URL to crawl and index the website. Likewise, there is a greater reduction in search engine optimization errors because all occur only once rather than for desktop and for mobile.
- Easy long-term maintenance: using one HTML file structure for the entire site means less development on the backend. Less development means time efficiency and a lower cost when making changes and maintaining the site.
- Bounce rate reduction: User experience strongly dictates your business’s bounce rate. If there is a consistent user experience among devices as well as an ease of navigation, the website is considered more trustworthy to the user. The easier to navigate, the longer a user is likely to stay on your site.
- Easy sharing: Instead of detecting multiple URL’s (such as m.title.com and www.title.com), responsive web design only uses one URL that allows for consistent and easy sharing among all users, devices, social marketing platforms, and experiences.
As technology evolves, websites- how they are designed and how they are built, will adapt further, (perhaps even into 3D?). 5.1 billion people in the world of the 6.8 billion-world population are now smartphone users. While responsive design may not be feasible for every business, it is a great option to consider when considering your customer base.
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 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.
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.
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.
A locally owned family business that has been active in Indianapolis for over 10 years, The Peters Group is a leader in Indianapolis irrigation and lawn care, landscaping, and outdoor lighting services. Chris Peters, the founder and president of The Peters Group, feels that the new site is a dramatic improvement over the company’s previous website and that it does a much better job communicating the organization’s strengths and capabilities - to create and maintain beautiful and livable yards, lawns and outdoor living areas.
“I give Marketpath an A+ grade on their web design, development and marketing work. They helped to re-brand our company and also helped is develop an ongoing content marketing plan to showcase our leadership and expertise in irrigation and lawn care, landscaping, and outdoor lighting.”
The new site also features The Perfect Lawn Blog, which will provide home owners with tips and insight into lawn care, eco-friendly best practices, and ideas to help families get the most out of their yards and outdoor living spaces. The site was also developed with search optimization (SEO) in mind, so that The Peters Group receives greater visibility within Central Indiana for their irrigation, landscaping and outdoor lighting services. The new site was developed using a responsive (mobile-friendly) design framework, so that mobile users (phone, tablet, etc.) will have the best possible experience when viewing the site and interacting with the new Peters Group brand.
Finally, Marketpath worked closely with The Peters Group team to develop an ongoing content marketing strategy focused creating credibility for the organization and greater online visibility. The content plan leverages the new The Perfect Lawn Blog to highlight the company’s expertise, while also leveraging both written and visual content through multiple project galleries that feature imagery from Indianapolis area homes. Content syndication via new social channels (Facebook, Twitter) are also part of the plan. And because Marketpath CMS (website content management) is very easy to use, ongoing site updates and content marketing should be easy to accomplish for The Peters Group’s small internal staff.
To learn more about The Peters Group, visit their new site at www.thepetersgroupllc.com and to learn more about Marketpath, visit www.marketpath.com. If you'd like to view additional responsive web designs and sites, visit our Mobile Website Project Gallery.
In a previous post, I wrote how website credibility, or creating credibility with your website, should be a small business’ number one objective. In my post, titled Credibility is Paramount for Small Business Websites, I suggested that creating credibility for your organization should be a significant part of your website strategy, possibly even more so than site visibility (via search engine rankings) - although both strategies should be connected. The basic reason for this is that credibility can dramatically impact not only your online conversions, but offline conversions as well, which can lead to greater sales and enhanced brand perception.
So if credibility is so important, what can you do to positively impact your organization’s credibility on your small business website? The truth is I have no idea. OK, I do have some idea, but as each business is different, so too will each plan be to create credibility for your organization. And, as I don’t know your organization like you do, I also can’t create a credibility plan that will completely fit your business – at least not until I learn more about your organization and your dealings. So, as you read through the rest of this article, use it as a starting point for your own organization’s credibility plan or something to get your creative juices flowing. With that said, here are three (3) main components to creating credibility on your home page and throughout your entire website.
- Have a Professional Looking Site:
As I mentioned in my previous article, your website is the new yellow pages for your business – it’s the first place any prospect will go when they want to learn more about your organization and what you do. With that said, you don’t want them arriving to your homepage and immediately having a poor experience (and opinion of your company). That’s what will happen if your site is old, outdated or poorly designed – even if you have good content within your site.
If your site looks unprofessional or unorganized, a prospect may never even take the step of browsing your site for specific content. If you have a high home page bounce rate, this could be the reason. Think back to the last time you went shopping in a new mall for the first time. You walk around and stick your head in a few stores to see if they quickly interest you. If they don’t quickly grab your attention, you don’t walk in and browse – instead you move on to the next storefront. Same thing with your website – make a positive impression in the first five to ten seconds, or the user will move on to other options.
Now days you also need to make that positive impression regardless of the device (desktop, tablet, phone, etc.) your audience is using. If you don't have a responsive web design or mobile friendly site, odds are that smart phone web viewers will not have a positive experience.
- Feature Content that Shows Your Expertise:
When I visit a website for the first time, my mental processing works like this. First, can I tell what the organization does in the first few seconds and do I get a generally favorable impression from the site’s overall appearance? If so, I then move on to my specific need or reason for searching or visiting that site. Does the organization offer the product, service, or information I’m looking for? If the answer is “Yes” again and I quickly see that high level offering (product, service, etc.), then I move on to specifics that will make me more comfortable in taking some next step (conversion), whether that next step is buying, making a call, or downloading an article.
So depending on what your organization does, what type of content will portray you as an expert, provide credibility, and make me more comfortable so I will take that next step (conversion)? Certain content, such as awards, press releases, membership in associations, or featuring well known customers, will provide basic confidence that your organization is credible. Different types of content can really hook me and drive me further down your purchasing or conversion cycle. If, for instance, I’m searching for a service offering, my next thought process may be whether your company has specific experience with my type of company or industry. Testimonials, case studies, project galleries, or white papers – specific to my industry or more specific needs (project type for example) – give me a much greater level of comfort that you are a viable option. Specific blog posts that touch on details (examples, industries, specific types of projects, etc.) can also provide that same level of reassurance I’m looking for, while positioning your organization as a leader in your space.
- Reinforce Leadership via Social media:
The third way to create web credibility is directly related to the strong content I discussed above. A strong social media presence can reinforce the positive impression your website provides, while allowing you to leverage some of that compelling content across multiple channels that encourage sharing and that will drive more eyes to your site. Nowadays, you may have certain individuals that start their search via different social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, Google+, or even Pinterest or Instagram if you have robust visual content. Having a strong presence on these sites will drive visitors to your website, but will also provide yet another level of comfort for those prospects that use that particular social marketing site. Reviews via sites like Google+, Facebook, Yelp, or Citysearch can also enhance credibility and help drive conversions, especially in certain industries (restaurants, service business, etc.) where reviews are prevalent. With that said, most small organizations don’t have the resources to have a positive presence on all the sites I mentioned. I’d recommend starting small and doing one or two social sites well, rather than trying to manage too much too soon. Remember, a poor impression on a social media site can be much worse than not having a site, and will hurt your credibility.
Whether you are designing a new website or just updating your current site, you should spend some time developing a content strategy that focuses on creating credibility for your website and your overall business. If you need help developing your social media or content strategy, contact Marketpath today. ,
KSM Transport Advisors (KSMTA), leaders in trucking profitability strategies and trucking consulting services, recently launched a new website to support their new branding and marketing initiatives.
David Roush, President of KSMTA, believes the new site does a much better of job of supporting the organization’s brand identity and communicating the organization’s leadership within the trucking industry.
“KSMTA needed a new website that looked polished and up-to-date, integrating our parent brand’s visual identity, while utilizing a flexible technology platform for content expansion and management. Marketpath successfully met our needs in these areas and more. Their professionals worked with multiple parties, including myself and our marketing team, in a seamless fashion. What’s more, the project came in on time and on budget and has received rave reviews from our clients.”
The new site, designed and developed by Marketpath, Inc., features new content focused on KSMTA’s two main trucking industry offerings:
- Carrier Profitability Assessments – Consulting assessments focus on industry best practices and benchmarks, providing a thorough analysis of the current situation and creating a roadmap so the identified issues can be quantified, prioritized and pursued.
- Carrier Profitability Products – Products that support and improve carrier profitability and efficiency.
The new site also includes KSM Transport Advisors’ new blog, Trucking Profitability Insights, where KSMTA will feature trucking industry expertise, insight and advice to help transportation and trucking organizations improve their operating efficiency and profitability. The site was also developed with search optimization in mind, so that KSMTA receives greater visibility within the transportation and trucking industry. It was created using a responsive (mobile-friendly) design and development framework, so that mobile users (phone, tablet, etc.) will have the best possible experience when viewing the KSMTA site and interacting with the KSM Transport Advisors brand. Finally, KSMTA is utilizing Marketpath CMS for ongoing website management – Market path’s easy-to-use solution for effective website content management and content marketing.
To learn more about KSM Transport Advisors, visit their new site at www.ksmta.com and to learn more about Marketpath, visit www.marketpath.com. If you'd like to view additional responsive web designs, visit our Mobile Website Project Gallery.
Is your website successful? Does your site support your brand, drive business growth, and bring in sales 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!
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.
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.
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.
The new website, designed and developed by Marketpath, is structured to provide up-to-date information on the church and the services they provide, while remaining user-friendly. The new website includes a calendar, allowing people to easily view future events. The site is now a responsive website, allowing the website to be easily accessible on all types of electronic devices. This is a major step forward for St. Dunstan’s, as it allows its churchgoers to quickly find service times and information using their mobile phones and tablets.
Marketpath worked closely with St. Dunstan’s to provide a high quality, user-friendly website, which will allow it to be more accessible to both the church and the parishioners. Additionally, Saint Dunstan also selected Marketpath, because they wanted a functional, user-friendly web content management solution (CMS), that would allow non-technical users to update and add new content to the church's site on a daily basis. The combination of a well designed site and Marketpath CMS, will allow St. Dunstan’s to continue their success and continue to grow its congregation.
We are seeking an experienced, full-time Website Designer to join our Indianapolis, Indiana team. If you are interested in applying for our Website UX/UI Designer position or in learning more about a career in web design and development and marketing technology solutions click here.
Or if you'd like to learn more about Marketpath, Inc., view our About Marketpath page. Contact us now if you'd like to join an innovative and growing marketing technology firm.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
The internet is inundated with statistics about the growing importance of mobile websites. If you haven’t gotten the message by now, you haven’t been listening. So, for the benefit of those who’ve yet to grasp the full implication of this trend, we’ll state it one more time: Smartphone usage has exploded. If you want your brand to cut through the clutter, be accessible, and look good to the hundreds of millions of people checking out your company or product on their device, you need a quality mobile website.
- Mobile is Immediate: When users hear about your product or service, they don’t have to wait until they park themselves in front of their laptop to get a glimpse. They flip out their phone, tap their browser and get to work. The Will Rogers quote still applies: “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.” State your case and make your contact options – email and phone – obvious and easy.
- Mobile Removes the Fluff: The average mobile web surf lasts less than a few minutes. Your mobile audience wants you to get to the point. They expect simple, direct, memorable, and concise calls to action. Content is valuable, but make a user wade through the morass of excess copy and large images and you risk ticking them off. They don’t want to have to modify images or tweak resolution. Put yourself in the user’s shoes. Make it easy for them to understand your sales proposition.
- Mobile Means Forward Thinking: A potential customer wants reassurance that you’re at least on pace with the industry curve. If they bring your business up on their smart phone and find something archaic – or nothing at all – that leaves a negative impression. A quality mobile website indicates that you’re thinking not just about the current state of your business, but where it’s headed going forward. Perception is critical.
What’s the current state of your company’s mobile website? Would you like to learn more about optimizing your mobile presence? Contact us today to find out more about designing your website and implementing a quality mobile website.
Selecting 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- What 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.
- 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.
The St. Margaret's Hospital Guild, one of Indianapolis’ most respected and longest running volunteer groups, recently launched a new website to promote their organization’s good works and their annual Decorators' Show House and Gardens project.
2013 Show House (April 27-May 12)
Proceeds from the annual Show House, running April 27th - May 12th, benefit Wishard Health (Eskenazi Health) and a variety of their services and programs. And this year’s house is extra special, featuring Indianapolis’ historic Schnull-Rauch House, located at 3050 North Meridian Street in Indianapolis.
Visit the new St. Margaret’s Guild and Decorators’ Show website to learn more about this year’s Show Home and to learn more about one of Indy’s most successful not-for-profit organizations. The new site, designed and developed by Marketpath, includes beautiful photo and video galleries of the past and present show homes, a blog that hi-lights historical information about this years’ Show House, as well information about Indy’s best decorators and designers that work to restore many of Indianapolis’ most beautiful homes. The site also features Marketpath CMS, an easy to use web content management system, so that the Guild’s non-technical memebers will be able to easily update and keep the site fresh.
And last, but not least, you can order your Decorators’ Show House tickets directly from the site. They’re perfect for Mother’s Day!
Some people just get it. They find perfect pictures for every page or post on their website with ease. They tend to match up high-level concepts of content with some abstract vintage photograph. These people are highly creative, probably avoid wheat products, and do their best work at a coffee shop while sipping a $5 latte.
Then there's the rest of us. We really suck at this and our graphic designer (if we're lucky enough to have one) has no problem telling us repeatedly. But they're so busy with other tasks that asking for a simple image to accompany our latest post isn't worth the effort. If you suck and aspire to greater photographic selection then this post is for you.
One answer to better pictures lies in your pocket. No, I'm not referring to your wallet.
Your mobile phone holds the capability to a brighter future of engaging and beautiful content. Of course, that's not the only thing. Here is an overview of that and some other methods you can use to create or find great pictures.
Use Your Smart Phone to Take Interesting Pictures
You have it with you everywhere. If at this point you're phone doesn't have a decent camera on it, then I'm surprised you've heard of the Interwebs and have made it to this site. Time to upgrade, my friend.
We all love cute and cuddly pictures of your children, grand-babies, or nieces and nephews but they usually don't fit well with your post about the tensile strength of a cable tie.
Use your camera to take pictures of anything - interesting scenes, objects, people, places, etc. We see interesting things every single day, although we may not be trained to notice them.
The pictures you see at the right are obviously not professional photographs. They are just random pictures I took along the way. Of course, you may ask, "how can I use images like these in my blog posts if I write about industrial strength detergents?"
I'll tell you....
The Scrabble board was taken during a random game with my family. Not related to detergents, you say? I say you are wrong. Here's a potential post title: "How to Get a Triple-Word Score when Choosing the Right Detergent" or "32 Uses for Detergents that Don't Require a Dictionary."
Rocky is a horse (errr, staff member) at one of our not-for-profit customers, Children's Theraplay. This one is easier - "Get a chance to meet the real Rocky when you buy 10 gallons!" or "Don't horse around with bad detergents."
And the mug? Well, my grandma made that 30 years ago and I proudly still have it. Of course, this one contained an adult holiday beverage my wife made. Titles - "Enjoy your mug of hot cocoa while our detergent does the hard work" or "When we say our detergent cleans mugs, we don't mean your face."
The sky is the limit, especially if you're allowed some freedom and fun within your blog posts. The only reason I started writing this post is because I took that picture of the barn above and it sparked the idea for the post.
Buying Stock Photography
Ever seen this girl? She is one of the most overused models in stock photography history. We used her as the main banner image of our website years ago until we saw her in some magazine ads, newspaper ads, and on a couple billboards.
Then, after we removed the image I saw her countless times in different variations. This is the challenge you get when using stock photography.
In and of itself it is not a bad thing and you do have the option with most providers to buy the sole rights to some images. Images that convey success and team work seem to be the most overused. But these sites have enormous collections. Just be aware that your choice may already be popular.
When choosing stock photography, pay attention to the following:
- Download count - most sites should give you this and be an indicator of its popularity
- Licensing - royalty free images can be used without fear of prosecution as long as you paid for it. This is the most popular option, though, because it's cheapest and there are no restrictions. It might be used all over the place reducing your "uniqueness" factor to a tiny grain of salt. Rights managed are much more costly and can only be used in specified scenarios that you indicate and pay for. These will be used much less but could cost you $1,000 and up.
- Image size - make sure that you have the best image size for your applied use. If you're using this for print media of a page size or larger, you'll want to get one of the higher resolutions (2,000 pixels and up)
Here are some vendor recommendations:
(they say "free" images but I couldn't find any)
|iStockPhoto||Royalty-free + rights managed||$||on-demand, subscription|
(start at $2/image and up)
(start at $19/image)
|ThinkStock||Royalty-free||$||subscription and image packs|
(starts at $25/image)
|Getty Images||Royalty-free + rights managed||$||on-demand, subscription|
Hire a Photographer
Want the most unique photography you can get? Then hire your very own photographer for a day, a week, etc. Hire them to take pictures of your place of business, warehouse, or plant. Give them some direction but also let them run free to fulfill their need for artistic expression. You'll probably be surprised by some of the images they capture - images you can use not only in your next product catalog but in your blog posts and as supporting imagery for pages throughout your website.
A decent photographer could easily cost you $100 per hour at the least. This is not a cheap option but if you want a large number of unique, high quality, royalty-free images that related perfectly to your organization, this may be a viable option.
Be sure to get a referral or recommendation for any photographer and make sure they are capable of taking the type of pictures you need.
Steal and Borrow (ideas)
Yeah, this is not the most recommended method. However, it is used extensively throughout the world. Images are so readily available through Google and Bing that most people just go there, type in a few keywords, and voila! 5.2 gazillion images at your fingertips (don't forget to turn on safe search or you might get distracted for a while).
This is basically stealing. Seriously. If I said I've never done it, though, I would be [REDACTED]. But the truth is that there are millions of high quality images with just a few clicks of the mouse. If you use this method be sure to:
- Reach out to the website owner and ask for permission to reuse it or ask where they got it
- Link to the site where you found it and give the owners credit
- Give the photographer credit, if possible, and link to their site or portfolio
Instead of stealing, why not get ideas from the limitless images available? Spark your creative muscles and use it as inspiration instead. Then find some good stock photography, take your own pictures, or take notes to give to your photographer. Now you're onto something good.
Casey-Bertram Construction, a leader in Indiana demolition services, launched their new website (www.casey-bertram.com) this week. The site, which was designed and optimized by Marketpath and features our easy to use web content management system, positions Casey-Bertram as Indiana’s demolition services expert.
With 20 years of experience, Casey-Bertram has been a leader in the Indiana demolition market for quite some time, with demolitions projects involving Indiana landmarks such as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Eli Lilly, the Indiana Convention Center, and the Indiana State Fair grounds. Casey-Bertram even provided demolition services for ABC's Extreme Makeover Home Edition television series.
Website Hi-Lights Demolition Expertise
The main objective of the new site was to highlight Casey-Bertram’s demolition experience and breadth of service offerings in its three main markets: commercial demolition, industrial demolition and residential (home) demolition. This was accomplished on the website with a number of features including: large image galleries, a demolition project gallery featuring over 25 Indiana demolition projects, a new Demolition Blog, and a section devoted to Indiana demolition videos. The site even features the Casey-Bertram Salvage Store, where Indianapolis contractors or consumers can get great deals on recycled products ranging from electric motors, to brass doors, to air conditioner units.
Scott Casey, President of Casey-Bertram, believes the new site does a much better of job of providing credibility and highlighting the organizations capabilities.
“Marketpath has brought our website from very basic to a modifiable site that can grow as our business evolves. I had no idea of interworking’s of SEO, blogs, keywords, etc. - all the components that actually drive traffic and conversions on the web. Marketpath extensively went over every detail and asked numerous questions to understand our business in order to tailor the website.”
If you need a small business or construction website - call Marketpath. If you need an Indianapolis area building or home demolished - check out Casey-Bertram.
Or just watch some of their demolition videos for fun!
The rise of smartphone usage over the past few years has come at a staggering pace. There are now over 91.4 million smartphones in the United States alone (this stat is a few months old, and with the release of the iPhone 5 in late September, the number is probably over 100 Million in the US alone). So, how does your website look to any one of these 100 million people that view your site on the device? Clunky? Unreadable? Empty white boxes where Flash graphics are located? While we understand designing your site for multiple devices is a difficult trend to keep up with, we also realize that falling behind can be costing you…big time.
According to the Huffington Post, the average smartphone user spends approximately 25 minutes per day browsing the internet. If you think your website is safe from mobile visitors, you’re probably wrong. Go check your analytics. One of our clients has about 20% of their traffic coming from mobile devices!
So, what’s your strategy? Do you display a different website? Different content? Well, that decision is likely unique to your business or organization. However, here are a few tips that probably work for any industry:
- Simplify your design – focus on your brand, and easy to navigate content
- Get rid of drop down menus – If your main website has them, fine, but just make sure that you get rid of them for your mobile site, as they can be difficult to interact with
- Reorganize content to someone on the go – what are these mobile users looking for? (Hint: Check analytics!)
- Make it easy to call you – prominently feature your phone number
- Give people the option to view the full site – Some phones are better than others, or some users don’t mind interacting with a full website on their phone, so give them the option to do so.
The main takeaway: Put some thought into mobile. The market is only going to grow as phones get better. Aim to truly understand how visitors are interacting with your site, and you’ll be better off for it.
Every website project that Marketpath does follows the same process. There is a hefty discovery portion of the project where we’ll discover everything from target audience & goals for the site, to design elements that will be utilized. One question we always ask is about actual content on the site. Who is going to write it? What are you targeting? Are you a good writer?
Unfortunately, the content creation portion of a project is usually the portion of the projects that drag out the longest. There are usually three different approaches to it (listed here from worst approach to the best):
Migrating old content to the new site
This is, by far, the worst approach that any company or organization can take. Your old content was boring and doesn’t convert well (if it did, you wouldn’t be reworking your site). Why would you want to mess up a fresh new site with stale content? The reason this approach gets used so often, however, is that it’s the easy way out. It doesn’t take any additional work, and therefore doesn’t cost any additional money. However, not investing the time (or budget) into new content is just assuring your organization that the money spent on a new design was wasted.
Writing Content Internally
This approach, while better than just migrating the old stuff over to the new site, still leaves a lot to be desired. Unless you have copywriters on staff, it is difficult for anyone within an organization to take a step back and write from a fresh vantage point. Ultimately, you’re going to just polish up the old, stale content, utilizing the same boring, non-converting words and phrases. Being entrenched in the day-to-day operations of a business can leave the mind at a loss when trying to create compelling content.
Outsourcing to a Professional
Ah, yes…we have a winner. Within any new website budget, there should be a line item for content writing. Depending on which firm you choose to work with, they may offer this service, so be sure to discuss it. If the firm doesn’t offer a copywriting service, ask who they would recommend. There are plenty of good writers (and companies) out there that make a living generating new content for companies. Having a fresh take can prove to be an invaluable asset. Another tip if you choose to outsource – think beyond your website. Many of these writers will offer packages that can give you white papers, case studies, blog posts, and a myriad of different types of content. Explore all your options.
The main takeaway: Content shouldn’t be an afterthought. It is just as, if not more, important as a new design, new functionality, or a new brand. Take that into consideration and you’ll have a much better chance at seeing a return on your investment.
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.
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.
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 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.
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).
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.
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.
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
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?
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
Most people probably don't know this but every time you visit a website a "cookie" is placed on your computer. Not the type of cookie shown in this picture (which is one of my favorites - white chocolate chip macadamia), but the type of cookie that helps website owners track information related to their visitors and improve the overall user experience.
Here's how they work
A cookie is simply a character string representing a key/value pair (e.g. "visitorID=23498EFDAB323"). These key/value pairs are sent back and forth between your browser and the website's server with every request.
Most cookies contain user preferences (i.e. language, local branch/store, layout, etc) as well as unique identifiers to track a visitor throughout the website.
MPVisitorID is the name of the cookie and the long ugly alpha-numeric string is the ID.
Cookies are safe
Since cookies are just bits of text they cannot be executed like a virus and are not considered to be a virus. But they can present other challenges by transmitting personal information in plain text if the connection is not encrypted.
As is our standard practice, we never store or transmit personal information via cookies. The id shown above is a unique identifier that contains no information outside our system. It is the same as your library giving you an account number of "1232154". Outside of the library's internal database "1232154" means nothing.
Most websites share the same practices because nobody wants to be cited for privacy issues. There are poor developers out there, though, that unknowingly choose to store personal information in cookies which can lead to those cookies being readable by others. Any plain text sent to and from your computer can be intercepted by anyone on the Internet with the tools and know-how.
But most browsers warn you if you are at risk of passing personal information, so you should pay attention to this and let website vendors know if you see these messages. Website developers don't often test for every possible combination of pages, products, and results which may lead to an occasional misidentification of security issues. As long as developers don't store personal information in cookies and only pass that information in secure page requests, you will be ok.
Cookies are also only limited to the domain of the request. If you browse to marketpath.com/home any cookies created or retrieved from that request are limited in scope to marketpath.com. We cannot ask for cookies stored from google.com because the browsers (at least the big dogs - IE, Chrome, Firefox, and Safari) will not allow it. If you're still using Mosaic then you're on your own!
Third party cookies are cookies created by outside domains, often ad services such as Google, Bing, or Yahoo, but used on your website. These cookies help the ad services recognize the ads you've seen and potentially personalize the ads displayed based on your browsing habits. These adhere to the same safety concerns as regular cookies but aren't controlled by the website including them.
Here are several sites where you can learn more about cookies.
Although cookies are a fairly simple technology, you may have some questions about them. If so, please post your question(s) in the comment area below.
A mobile website or mobile ready website is simply an internet site optimized for viewing on mobile devices or smartphones such as the iPhone, Android or Blackberry. Because mobile gadgets are smaller than computers (with smaller screens), full websites are often difficult to view and navigate via mobile devices.
Mobile websites provide a better way for consumers to learn about your organization when they’re on-the-go and typically consist of a “stripped down” version of a website, with less information, prioritized or more important to the mobile user.
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.
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?
If you haven't followed the Netflix debacle, here's a quick overview:
- In July, Netflix announced it was raising prices on accounts that have both streaming and DVD rentals from $9.99 to $15.98. This actually reflected separate pricing for each service ($7.99 each). Customers were outraged.
- Netflix almost instantly lost hundreds of thousands of subscribers and was expected to lose a million total - mostly from the DVD-only side. By mid-September, the Netflix stock price was down 20%.
- Immediately following the stock sell-off and mass cancelation spree, CEO Reed Hastings sent a letter to all subscribers explaining the reasoning behind the split. The company would be split into two entities, one for streaming (Netflix) and one for DVD's (Qwikster). That quelled some anger but others persisted.
- Today, amidst the continuing outcries, CEO Hastings announced that there would be no split and the Qwikster initiative would be killed off.
Now how's that for customer complaints turning the tides? Even ten years ago if a company made a major change like this you would have to assemble a small army of protestors and march on their headquarters to get a company to reverse course. Not anymore.
With Facebook, Twitter, blog comments, customer forums, and other social channels you can instantly create an army of a million or more who share your viewpoint. Protesting consumer brands can be incredibly viral. And Netflix' price increase and service changes are no exception.
Here are a few lessons to take away from Netflix' errors:
- Test, test, and test again. If you are a public company with a market cap of 5.8 billion dollars, test the Qwikster concept on a small segment of your subscribers. Keep it private and see how many from that group cancel their account as a result. It's insane to think that you would split your company with little input from your customer community. Granted, you're raising prices and that won't go over well anytime. But you never mentioned the split at the time so there was no correlation to the 60% price increase.
- Don't raise prices 60%. I used Netflix before they offered the streaming service and hung it up after I realized that I could only rent two movies every 8-9 days. That's three days in the mail, 2-3 days at my house, and another 3 days back to Netflix in the mail. Do the math and you can only get 4-6 movies a month.
About this time, Blockbuster offered their unlimited DVD rental plan for around $15 per month (2 or 3 DVD's out at a time). I could actually rent movies, watch them, and pick up new movies on my way home. I cut out six days between each change-up. Then they raised prices on this service to $24.99 per month. I dropped out. $15 of entertainment per month was worth it. A 60% increase to $25 was not. Perhaps Netflix should have read their business history books before they made the same change.
- Honest Communication. Netflix has been stuck in a reactive course of action since July. This would have been much simpler if they were more open and honest about their price increase and stagger the plan. Perhaps something like this:
"Dear Netflix friend, we are working hard to provide you high quality entertainment at a competitive rate. While our costs have risen over the last several years we've kept your fees unchanged. I sincerely wish that we could continue these rates but for us to continue providing great service and great entertainment, we must raise prices to cover our increased costs. We won't do it all at once. Instead we'll make those increases over the next six months to a year and here's what they will look like....."
See the truthful, planned nature in the response? It's proactive and addresses the issues honestly and straightforward. There will still be repercussions but you will have an informed customer base behind you. Those that love the service might even stick up for you.
With the new power of social media channels, and the potential of major influencers to raise a fuss more quickly than ever, I don't see why any company with an informed customer base would make major changes to their services without testing the waters first. The mass fury of Netflix customers could have been avoided if they had an approach that was less of a "screw them, they'll deal with it" approach and more of a "hey, we need to make some changes and would like to hear your feedback first" approach. This is all goes back to the 2nd website marketing pillar, engagement. Talk with your customers through the most active channels and don't puke your plans all over them without expecting a backlash.
Customers are the new shareholders. Through social channels they can make your world an awful place to live if you don't provide a good return on their investment.
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
Many 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)
Because 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?
The 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.).
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.
Earlier 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.
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/
Marketpath 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.