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Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

On-Page Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Elements that Impact Results

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There are certain SEO elements that Impact Results. The following SEO elements should be considered to optimize the page:
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Marketing Stat of the Month: Paid Search Results vs. Organic Search (SEO) Listings

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Did you know 70-80% of people ignore paid search results, skipping past them to the organic search listings? What are the implications for your SEO and digital strategy?
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Why Keyword Research is (Still) Critical to Your Website’s Success

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Despite what you may have heard, Keyword research should still be a prerequisite or component of any search optimization (SEO) planning or website design and development project. Then why, you might ask, have I read so many headlines like:“keywords are dead?”
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Search Optimization(SEO) Trends for 2016

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Techies from around the globe visited New Orleans to attend the Collision Conference this past Spring.  The conference consisted of 11,000 attendees, 200 world-class speakers across 5 stages that touched on Design, Marketing, Development, and Technology.
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The Ultimate Driver in Traffic: Search Engine Optimization

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Search Engine Optimization is constantly evolving. It is critical to stay on top of trends and the latest algorithm updates. One way to stay informed is to track key statistics and learn from them.
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A Simplified Explanation of Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

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Many business owners aren’t marketing experts, so they often only have a basic understanding of website optimization. When talking with them, I often try to give a quick overview of what SEO is and some of the main factors that can positively impact search results.
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What Does Google’s Hummingbird Mean for SEO in 2014?

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Semantic Search.

That’s the phrase to keep in mind with the introduction of Google’s new Hummingbird algorithm. While previous updates Penguin and Panda were modifications to the company’s existing algorithm, Hummingbird is a complete replacement. What does that mean for SEO? In a nutshell, the days of extensive keyword data are over – at least in regard to individual search terms driving your site optimization strategy.

Google’s Hummingbird AlgorithmHummingbird is based on semantic search, which means that individual terms are no longer the main driving force behind what gets found during an online search. Instead, Google provides results it believes meet the context of the search and the user’s overall intent. Rather than one or two individual words triggering the results, entire phrases within the search help generate what is found.

For most, the change shouldn’t come as a surprise. Google has been moving in this direction for some time now, improving their technology to eliminate sites designed to game the system. Forward thinking web development businesses have anticipated the shift. Though extensive keyword data was valuable, and still is to some degree, it doesn’t remove the fact that what matters most is rich, engaging content that can be shared across networks.

Google’s position is clear: As the dominant search engine, the company wants to make sure they provide the results users want. The questions are simple:

  1. What is the user’s intent?
     
  2. In what context are they asking for this information? In other words, why is it valuable to them?

Though Google owns the market, they’re savvy enough to realize that the closer they are to the user’s target, the more likely they’ll remain the industry leader. At the heart of the movement is the need to instill trust. The user puts their trust in Google, and they, in turn, attempt to provide the best answers.

As a website owner, your job is to create valuable, relevant content. That’s what will draw people in. If you don’t, you can’t expect Google to find you.

Are you generating quality content that takes into account the changes in SEO? If not, Marketpath can help you put together a content marketing program. Contact us today to learn more.

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Math vs. Content Problems – Why SEO as We Know it is Dead

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

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

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

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

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

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5 Signs You've Hired the Wrong SEO Firm

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When the time comes to hire an SEO agency to help boost your online presence and rankings, chances are you’re going to have a lot of questions.  This is okay.  I’ve been in and around the industry for close to six years and I am no expert.  Whether you’re a novice, someone who knows enough to be dangerous, or a seasoned veteran looking for some help, these 5 signs will help you eliminate a lot of so called “experts”. 

Guaranteed 1st Page Rankings

No Guarantee PleaseNo SEO company can or should offer a guarantee for first page rankings for your keywords.  I don’t care what else they say, or what else they show you, this is impossible.  Guarantees are the biggest red flag for any company and should end the conversation immediately.

Bottom Line - none of these companies work for or “have a special relationship with Google.”  It just doesn’t work that way.  Sure they may have a great track record, but guarantees are impossible to make in this industry.    

Won't Share Past Results

Piggybacking a bit off the first point, any SEO company that refuses to share their results with previous or current clients should be shown the door as well.  Any reputable SEO firm isn’t afraid to showcase their successes, their process, and even their failures.  Nobody is perfect in this industry, so be sure to ask them for examples or each. 

Bottom Line – Just because a company isn’t perfect doesn’t mean they won’t work for you.  Understanding the successes, process, and any failures they’ve had will go a long way in building a trusting relationship.

Unable/Unwilling to Give Explanations of Service/Process

No SEO Has ThisIf you hear the words “Through our proprietary process, your site will see an increase in rankings”, make sure you ask exactly what it is they are going to do.  If they are vague, too technical, or just very brief, ask for clarification.  If you’re still unclear, it could be time to look elsewhere. 

Bottom Line – In today’s SEO world, the knowledge of what works and what doesn’t is out on the web.  No firm should have an ace up their sleeve, or a proprietary process that nobody else uses (if they do, chances are it’s not a white hat tactic).

No Discussion of Overall Business Goals

Today’s SEO firms should act more as overall Internet Marketing consultants more than just “We swear we’ll improve your rankings” consultants.  The days of improving rankings by implementing nothing but a technical SEO strategy are gone.  Today, it’s more beneficial to build a brand, generate content, and share it across the web.

Bottom Line – Make sure the conversation leads to overall goals for the marketing plan and the business itself.  Improving rankings on a SERP should be part of an overall plan to grow, not the only strategy.

Links to Your Site Start Showing up in Questionable Places

No Spammy Links, PleaseAdding to the last point, a red flag that your SEO firm is engaged in some naughty practices would be that links to your site start showing up in questionable places.  Make sure you have Google Alerts and Google Webmaster Tools set up.  The Alerts will help flag any event on the web that involves a keyword (your business name), and the Webmaster tools will allow you to see which domains are linking to you.  If you see a suspicious domain, don’t hesitate to speak with your SEO firm and ask what they are doing.

Bottom LineGoogle is getting better and better at detecting these poor SEO practices.  Unfortunately, SEO firms still practice them religiously, so they need to be monitored and called out when possible. 

Contracting with an SEO firm is never an easy decision, but hopefully these five red flags will help you eliminate some of the less effective companies.  Keep in mind that communication is key.  There should always be an open dialog between client and agency in the SEO relationship.

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How Much SEO is Too Much SEO?

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Google’s Matt Cutts let the cat out of the bag at SXSW this year and explained that Google would be rolling out a change to their algorithm that actually penalized overly optimized websites.  While he didn’t say what Google was considering “overly optimized”, there has been some speculation as to what it could be.

Matt Cutts

"Stop trying to game the system...write better stuff"

First things first – Too Much Onsite SEO

This will actually be a pretty common find once Google rolls out the change.  For years, people have been taught to put their top priority keywords in the title tags of the pages.  This wasn’t (and still isn’t) a “spammy” tactic, so hopefully the penalty here won’t be too harsh.  The thought process here, however, is that a title tag that is full of keywords isn’t exactly conversational, and therefore hurts the overall usability of the site.  For instance, which one of these sounds better to a searcher:

Website Content Management & eCommerce System | Marketpath CMS

OR

Marketpath CMS – The Easiest Damn Content Management System Available

Personally, I’d click through on #2, and I’d be willing to bet I’m not the only one.  However, traditional onsite SEO (at least the past 5 years of it) would laugh at that title tag.  Using words like “the” “damn” and “available” would be an amateur mistake.  These words are filler words that don’t help my keyword strategy.

Other onsite items to review once the change goes live are things like internal links that all utilize the same anchor text, page structure that doesn’t make sense other than to create more places for keywords, and snippets of text that appeal more to search engines rather than users.

Next – Too Much Offsite SEO

If you’ve contracted with an external search engine optimization firm, there is a good chance that they have built links to your site to boost rankings.  While there has already been a decrease in the importance of links in the overall ranking algorithm, sites with unnatural link profiles may be penalized even further with this update.  I’d be willing to guess that 999 times out of 1000, sites with unnatural link profiles have contracted out and bought links (either directly or indirectly), which is technically against the Google Terms of Service, so it’s only fair to get penalized. 

The thought process here is a natural one.  Google’s goal is to deliver the most relevant content for a search query.  The most relevant content isn’t always delivered because other, less relevant sites may be optimized to rank better.  Removing links from the algorithm and replacing them with other signals might help Google finally achieve what they are trying to do – rank content based on quality, not technical SEO.

Whether or not you agree that sites that are overly optimized should be penalized (we’ve had that argument internally), the change is coming.  The best thing you can do at this moment for your site’s well-being hasn’t changed, however.  Keep an eye on the changes as they are rolled out, read some blogs about those changes, and modify your strategy accordingly.  The heart of your strategy will remain constant, focusing on good content creation and marketing

 

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What Are Your Customers Searching For?

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I just finished up with a sales meeting and demo of our product.  The potential customer knows they need help (which is a great first step), but even better, one thing was said that made me note they are ahead of the game when it comes to understanding why they need help (going beyond the usual “we need more traffic” statement).  The company admitted they had no idea what their prospects called their products.  Of course they use their industry lingo, but how many different terms could be used to describe their product,  Judging by how many different synonyms he rattled off in a matter of seconds, I'd say quite a few.

Potato vs. Spud 
You say Potato, I say spud, or tuberous crop, or...get it?

It’s a problem that a lot of companies have…too much technical jargon.  Too much industrial speak.  So, how do you fix it?  Here are a few tips:

Utilize the Google Keyword tool

This tool will allow you to type in what you think people are searching for and present you with a list of other ideas to consider.  Don’t get too hung up on the numerical values here, as this is Google’s “data” that is being displayed.  Their goal is to entice you to purchase these terms via Adwords, so just realize that higher numbers (global search volume and local search volume) are a good thing.

Ask Your Existing Customers

Your existing customer base can give you invaluable information as to what they call your products.  Find out exactly what they refer to them as and begin to build your keyword lists from there.  If you’re in an industry that services many different verticals, make sure you survey someone from each specific niche…this will help tremendously.

Analytics Data

If your site is already equipped with Google Analytics, or some other platform, check out the “Keywords” section of how your visitors have found your site.  Skip over any branded terms, and begin to dig a bit deeper.  Find the terms that only sent 2, 3 or 10 visitors over the month.  There is a good chance that these are appropriate terms, your site just might not be optimized for them quite yet.

Now that you have a bit better idea of how to find out what your customers call your product, now what?  Well, it’s time to build specific content around the new terms.  It’s up to you or your marketing department to decide whether these new phrases warrant static pages on your site, or if they are good blog fodder.  Put that content management system to use and begin adding the revised content to your site. 

 

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Why Marketpath Has Stayed Out of the SEO Game

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Marketpath is not an SEO company.  We have never tried to be an SEO company.  We will never try to be an SEO company.  Now, if you’re an existing client, you may be saying to yourself “Wait, these guys had an SEO phase during our project…what gives?”  If you’re an avid reader of our blog, you may be thinking to yourself “Two out of every three articles these guys post mentions SEO…what gives?”  Well, both questions would be warranted, but allow me to retort (said in my best Samuel L. Jackson voice, of course).

SEO is Notorious for the “Flavor of the Month”

Pinterest is this Month's Superman Ice CreamKeeping up with the changes from Google and the rest of the web in regards to SEO is a full-time job.  Whether it is Google Caffeine, the Panda Update, the introduction of the +1, Google+, Schema.org, or this month’s flavor - Pinterest, keeping up to date with what needs to happen from an SEO standpoint requires an army of people to do well.  It seems that not a month goes by where I’m not reading some article about X product that is “changing the SEO game forever!”, only to not really hear about it a month down the road.  Over the last two months, for instance, focus has shifted from “how to use Google+ for business” to “how to use Pinterest for business”.   We simply don’t have the staff, or the desire, to throw our hat into the ring of these larger SEO firms that do their jobs so well.  Our SEO recommendations go as far as Title Tag creation, help with Meta descriptions, and some content revisions…you know, the basics of what any site should be doing.

We’ve Always Preached the Foundations

Being a software company who creates an easy-to-use content management system, we’ve always preached that creating compelling content is the best way to attract traffic.  Stop trying to game the system by buying links and focus on content.  Write blog posts, build landing pages with links for white papers and case studies, and host webinars on your most popular topics.  Be social.

Lately, SEO companies have been slowly moving away from the secretive tactics they have employed and become more upfront with what works.  Content is once again becoming king, which is a good thing.  Create it, share it, and reap the rewards.

The Long Tail

Competing for highly-sought-after keywords can be extremely expensive.  The truth is, if you’re ranking well for 1-2 highly targeted, highly competitive keywords, you’re probably getting less traffic than someone who ranks for 400-500 highly specific, easy-to-attain keyword phrases.  Blog posts are great for this.  White papers are great for this.  Video is great for this.  A lot of people type in brand new, never before searched phrases into Google every day.  These phrases are the long tail and can really help drive traffic to your site.

The Long Tail of SEO

SEO is rapidly changing, and will always be rapidly changing.  It may be called different terms, like inbound marketing or search marketing, but at the end of the day the goal of a search engine has remained constant since the beginning of the industry.  Delivering the best, most relevant results for each search query will always be at the core of what search engines are trying to accomplish.  Become the expert in your industry by sharing your knowledge, and you’ll be rewarded.

 

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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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The Minimum Effective Dose for Improved SEO

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SEO PrescriptionSearch engine optimization, for many, can be an extremely daunting and intimidating task. Many of our own clients struggle with the very basics when we are building their sites, which is why we help them out in the beginning.  In an effort to help SEO newbies and first-time website owners, I am prescribing the minimum effective dose for SEO.  For anyone not familiar, the minimum effective dose can essentially be defined as the minimum amount of dosage or activity (i.e. change) needed to produce the desired effect. This term is often used in the world of exercise science or pharmacology, but I think that it applies to the world of search engine optimization as well.  Here are three "easier-to-accomplish", but very important tasks that will help the foundations of SEO for any site.

Create an XML Sitemap

This is the easiest task that I can suggest.  Simply put, a sitemap is a list of all the pages on your website that allows users and search engine robots alike to see the “map of your site”.  An XML sitemap is preferred by Google and actually allows you to assign importance for specific pages within your website.  Here is a hint, the homepage should be a 1.0 (the most important).  If you are utilizing an open-source content management system, you can probably find a widget that will create an XML sitemap for you…just beware of what you’re installing (like any widget).  Other content management systems, like Marketpath CMS, automatically create a sitemap for you, so chances are, you’ve already accomplished this step.  Nice Work!

Optimizing the Homepage Title Tag

Arguably the most important piece of on-site architecture, other than great content to support it, your site’s homepage title tag is your first chance to tell users, and Google, the topic of your website.  Implementing your keyword strategy here should be priority number one.  Do some keyword research and make sure that the first words in your homepage’s title tag are the most important for your business, not your company’s name.  Also, don’t exceed 65-69 characters (spaces included), as Google will begin to truncate the listing at this point.  For more information on creating a great title tag, download our free SEO guidebook

Content Creation

So you’ve just put in a bunch of hours designing and launching a website…congratulations! Now, it’s time to get to work.  You may be thinking “wait, what?  The company that built our site promised us 1st page rankings!”  Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s probably not going to happen without a lot more work on your part (especially if you have a brand new domain).  Why is this part of the minimum effective dose SEO prescription?  Because this is one of the least technical SEO strategies that exists.  While it’s not necessarily easy to create good content, you are the expert in your business, so share some of that knowledge and post it via your blog.  Commit to a content creation strategy and you’ll begin to see the desired results.

Tip of the SEO Iceberg

SEO is not easy, nor should it be.  Search engines like Google are designed to keep out the lower quality sites and provide the best user experience for their customers.  These three tips cover just the very tip of the ever-changing iceberg.  If you have any other basic, or easy to accomplish SEO tasks, feel free to leave them in the comments section.
 

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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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Avoiding Comment Spam in your Blog

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If you keep up a blog then you are probably well acquainted with comment spam. This is an inevitable fact of life if you allow comments on your blog (which you should in most cases). At Marketpath, we reached a point with our blogging platform where we were receiving a great deal of comment spam for our own blogs and many of our customers' blogs. Here's an example:

Example of comment spam

Notice how well-written this comment is? Notice its perfect grammar and its amazingly descriptive word choices? That's sarcasm, of course. 

The good news is that if you are using Marketpath CMS, you don't have to worry about this type of comment rearing its ugly head on your blog. Every comment must be reviewed and approved before others can see it and it's very easy to do so. You'll receive a notification about the comment and can quickly jump into CMS to approve it.

Most other CMS platforms provide some sort of comment moderation as well and may even run comments through an detection engine to determine how likely they are spam. The best tool for this, however, is using good ol' fashioned eyeballs. Not everyone who comments writes well so you'll want to be careful not to ignore legitimate comments.

Why do people spam your blog? The biggest reason is that they are trying to improve their own website's search engine position by creating backlinks to their site. They will embed keywords and utilize the URL field to create the link.

Marketpath helps eliminate spam not only by requiring approval of comments but also by using a REL="NOFOLLOW" tag in the links. This tag tells search engines to ignore the link and alerts most spammers (those with a decent understanding of SEO) to avoid it because they know they won't get any credit for the link. Marketpath also strips HTML tags from the actual comment. If a spammer tries to embed a link into the comment, it will be stripped and removed completely. And the final tactic we employ is requiring visitors to enter a number verification (captcha) so automated spamming systems won't get through.

All in all, comment spam is a fact of life and will continue to be for quite some time. Simple measures, like I discussed above, whether you're using Marketpath CMS or some other evil CMS platform, should be a standard part of the technology to keep these comments from ever seeing the light of day.

Here are a couple more posts about comment spam that may interest you:

Hard facts about comment spam (Google Webmaster Central Blog)
Spam in blogs (Wikipedia)
 

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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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Google +1 Coming to an Algorithm Near You

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


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

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

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

Is this a perfect solution?

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

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

Where does this leave you, the site owner?

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

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

 

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4 Reasons You Need a Mobile Website

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

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

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

 

So why should your organization develop a mobile site?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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